, Volume 43, Issue 6, pp 759–769 | Cite as

Climate Change and Forest Communities: Prospects for Building Institutional Adaptive Capacity in the Congo Basin Forests

  • H. Carolyn Peach Brown
  • Barry Smit
  • Olufunso A. Somorin
  • Denis J. Sonwa
  • Johnson Ndi Nkem


Tropical forests are vulnerable to climate-change representing a risk for indigenous peoples and forest-dependent communities. Mechanisms to conserve the forest, such as REDD+, could assist in the mitigation of climate change, reduce vulnerability, and enable people to adapt. Ninety-eight interviews were conducted in three countries containing the Congo Basin forest, Cameroon, CAR, and DRC, to investigate perceptions of decision-makers within, and responses of the institutions of the state, private sector, and civil society to the challenges of climate change. Results indicate that while decision-makers’ awareness of climate change is high, direct institutional action is at an early stage. Adaptive capacity is currently low, but it could be enhanced with further development of institutional linkages and increased coordination of multilevel responses across all institutions and with local people. It is important to build networks with forest-dependent stakeholders at the local level, who can contribute knowledge that will build overall institutional adaptive capacity.


Africa Congo Basin forest Climate change Adaptive capacity Institutions Perception 



The authors would like to thank all the participating institutions for giving their time from their busy schedules for the interviews. The authors also appreciate the help of the research assistants in each country. This research was conducted under the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) and Department for International Development (DFID)-funded Congo Basin Forest Climate Change Adaptation project of the Center for International Forestry Research and a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada Postdoctoral Fellowship. The research was also supported by the Global Environmental Change Group in the Department of Geography at the University of Guelph. An earlier version of this manuscript was presented at the second ICARUS conference (Initiative on Climate Adaptation Research and Understanding through the Social Sciences) held at the University of Michigan.


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Copyright information

© Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • H. Carolyn Peach Brown
    • 1
  • Barry Smit
    • 2
  • Olufunso A. Somorin
    • 3
  • Denis J. Sonwa
    • 4
  • Johnson Ndi Nkem
    • 5
  1. 1.University of Prince Edward IslandCharlottetownCanada
  2. 2.Department of GeographyUniversity of GuelphGuelphCanada
  3. 3.Forest and Nature Conservation Policy GroupWageningen UniversityWageningenThe Netherlands
  4. 4.Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR)Central African Regional OfficeYaoundéCameroon
  5. 5.Climate Change Adaptation and Development ProgrammeUnited Nations Development Programme (UNDP)NairobiKenya

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