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Coupled forest zoning and agricultural intervention yields conflicting outcomes for tropical forest conservation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC)

Journal Contribution - Journal Article

Agricultural intensification and forest conservation are often seen as incompatible. Agricultural interventions can help boost food security for poor rural communities but in certain cases can exacerbate deforestation, known as the rebound effect. We tested whether coupling agricultural interventions with participatory forest zoning could improve food security and promote forest conservation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Simple agricultural interventions led to a >60over effect of improved cassava variety uptake in non-intervention zones. Household surveys conducted at the end of the 8 year project implementation period revealed that households that received agricultural interventions had more favorable attitudes toward forest zoning and conservation. The surveys also showed that farmers in the intervention domain practiced less land-intensive field and fallow management strategies compared to those practiced in the non-intervention domain. However, an 18 year time series analysis of Landsat satellite data revealed that agricultural expansion persisted in areas both with and without intervention assistance, and there is risk of a rebound effect. Approximately 70 km buffer zone surrounding the outermost edges of the agricultural areas, which suggested that the majority of tree cover loss was caused by agricultural expansion. Within that 3 km buffer, average annual tree cover loss during the post-intervention period was higher in the intervention domain compared to the non-intervention domain (0.17-1) compared to 0.11-1) respectively, p <0.001), suggesting risk of a rebound effect. The disconnection between household perceptions of zoning adherence and actual behavior indicates the importance of strengthening governance structures for community-based monitoring and enforcement.
Issue: 6
Volume: 17
Publication year:2022