The Mai Ndombe REDD+ project protects approximately 300,000 hectares of humid tropical and swamp forest located in the central part of the Congo River basin in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The area was a former logging concession on the shores of Lac Mai Ndombe (Black Water Lake) that was suspended in 2007. A Canadian company with a local DRC partner spent 3 years to acquire the concession rights from the government of the DRC to prevent the concession from being re-awarded to another logging company. The project and surrounding area have been designated as a high conservation priority within the Congo Basin, and provides habitat for threatened and endemic species such as bonobos and forest elephants, and includes some of the most important wetlands in the world.
The project is also home to some 50,000 people, most of whom live on the shores of Lake Mai Ndombe. Shortages in clean drinking water access, chronic lack of financial resources for education and healthcare, and serious concerns over food security, nutrition, and economic alternatives make the need for an integrated approach to sustainable development crucial for communities in the project area. Sales from the project’s Verified Emissions Reductions will therefore provide a pathway to low-carbon economic development – supporting improved access to potable water, agricultural and economic diversification, education and healthcare development, and capacity building activities to empower local communities. The Mai Ndombe REDD+ project is expected to reduce emissions by more than 100 million tonnes of CO2 over the next 30 years.
The Mai Ndombe project makes REDD+ a viable economic alternative to unsustainable commercial logging, helping to prevent the primary and secondary forest extraction that used to cause regional ecosystem fragmentation, biodiversity loss, soil degradation, and wetland sedimentation. The project’s forest conservation activities not only safeguard local communities’ environmental health and economic livelihoods, but also their traditional, spiritual, and cultural values.
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The project zone forms part of the the globally significant Lac Télé–Lac Tumba Landscape. Within this landscape, Lac Mai Ndombe forms part of the largest wetland of international importance in the world as recognized by the Ramsar Convention and is the largest freshwater area in the African continent. The swamp forests of the project zone are considered to be of high conservation value and important component of this landscape.
The Mai Ndombe project area is home to the bonobo, the globally endangered great ape that is humankind’s closest relative and found only in the Congo basin. A significant part of the project area includes the migratory path of the Congo basins’ endangered forest elephants. Also present in the project area are the near threatened giant pangolin, brown-cheeked hornbill, and Osborn’s dwarf crocodile.
Very little is known about the flora diversity in the project area. As a result of the flora inventory that is being carried out under the project, two species of endangered plants and five species of vulnerable plants have been observed on the site to date. In addition to these, there are at least five endemic species and one endemic subspecies of plants and many more yet to be discovered.
An extensive consultation process took place with local communities to ensure that free, prior and informed consent was obtained prior to project initiation. Ongoing community engagement will occur throughout the full project period with community consent sought at key stages in the process. For example, communities continue to be involved with respect to the project design, so that project activities and associated benefits reflect local needs and priorities and are monitored by communities themselves. Capacity building activities and the establishment of local development committees increases local governance, administration and decision making capacity, and the ability for communities to collectively respond to local issues and determine future directions.
Only two years from inception, the Mai Ndombe REDD+ Project already employs 120 staff on a full-time basis and has trained and employed approximately 80 additional people on a part-time basis for the collection of forest inventory data, biodiversity data, and for the implementation of the community consultation process. The project places a high value on employee capacity building and holds regular workshops to educate staff on a wide range of subjects.
Local communities in the project area identified school construction as a high priority, and thus the Mai Ndombe REDD+ project plans to construct a minimum of 19 schools in project communities. This will substantially increase the quantity and quality of local educational infrastructure, as well as access to educational opportunities such as regional exams. Each semester the project distributes school supplies to every student in the project zone.
Health care is very poor within the Project area. None of the villages in the project area have proper health centers. The Mai Ndombe Project has established a mobile medical clinic to improve access to health care for isolated rural villages. The project is working closely with the national and regional health authorities, active health NGOs and sovereign investors, to invest in a health needs assessment, carry out medical tours, and create modest but proper health centers in strategically-situated villages, where stocks of medicine will be supplemented to improve their availability and distribution.
Project activities still in the planning stage will improve access to potable water, for example through the design and construction of wells that eliminate the risk of drinking water becoming contaminated. As forests play a role in the regulation of ground water supply their protection will play a role in securing sufficient and safe potable water supplies.
Satellite internet communications infrastructure has been purchased and set up. It is used not only for project operations but is also made available to the local population for medical and other important communication needs. Very limited communication options were previously available.
The Mai Ndombe REDD+ project's avoided deforestation and low-carbon development activities will result in greenhouse gas emission reductions of more than 100 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent over the next 30 years.
The Mai Ndombe REDD+ Project has received third party validation and verification to the Verified Carbon Standard (VCS). This is a robust quality assurance process, the achievement of which demonstrates that the project’s climate benefits are real and can be relied upon as accurate.
The Mai Ndombe REDD+ Project has been validated and verified to the Climate, Community & Biodiversity (CCB) Standards, Second Edition, achieving Climate Adaptation and Community Gold Levels. Project activities provide significant support for local communities to adapt to the impacts of climate change, as well as exceptional biodiversity benefits.
About the Project Developer
Wildlife Works was founded in 1997 with a simple yet powerful idea. If you want to protect endangered wildlife, you need to balance the needs of wildlife with the need for work for those rural communities who share the same environment. Our mission is to bring market-based solutions to conservation of biodiversity by providing sustainable economic benefits to rural communities so they can aspire to a better life or simply feed their children and put them through school without damaging the environment in which they live.