The Regional Summit on Climate Change, Biodiversity Conservation and Food Systems in the Congo Basin has ended with experts calling for a boost to food security and the safeguard of the Congo Basin.
From this three-day summit held in Kinshasa, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), attended by 230 participants, "will emerge projects that will make food systems in the Congo Basin more viable, while at the same time giving priority to the assets linked to the fight against climate change, for the benefit of our communities and all humanity," says Benjamin Toirambe Bamoninga, Secretary of the DRC Ministry of the Environment.
Covering 1.62 million square kilometres (more than 625,000 square miles), the forests of central Africa represent the planet's second-largest carbon sink after the Amazon.
They are also home to huge biodiversity including forest elephants and gorillas, but they face threats such as poaching, deforestation, and illegal logging.
At the opening of the three-day regional summit in Kinshasa, several speakers stressed that the needs of people living near the forest must be taken into account.
"For marginalised and poor populations, the forest is their supermarket," said Congolese agriculture minister Jose Mpanda.
"We're not going to forbid them to find something to eat".
Million Belay, the general coordinator of the NGO Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa, likewise told delegates that ensuring food security was crucial to protecting the forest.
"People will destroy the forest in search of food," he said. "There is a lot of support for conservation in the Congo Basin but there is very little support for the food system for the people."
The Democratic Republic of Congo, home to 60 percent of the vast Congo Basin rainforest, is one of the world's poorest countries.
Kinshasa has faced criticism for launching an auction last year for oil and gas blocks, some of which are in sensitive forest areas.