I was deep into an all-but-inaccessible “protected community preserve” in DRC when someone handed me a filthy plastic bag and wanted me to look inside. The contents? A greasy, half-decomposed gorilla hand and a dried out piece of Okapi skin. I held the gorilla hand in my own; the desire to be close to the once magnificent creature was enough to overcome the stench and the kick-gut revulsion. This preserve, like the villages raped of their forest resources as noted yesterday’s Greenpeace Report (http://www.greenpeace.org/raw/content/international/press/reports/carving-up-the-congo-exec.pdf), had nothing but a bag of empty promises and rotting flesh as payment for the handover of ancestral lands to conservation organizations. Greenpeace, to their credit, has gone after the World Bank and International logging companies. NOT ONE DOLLAR of the World Bank imposed taxes on logging companies has gone to local authorities, according to the report. However, conservation organizations have mysteriously remained immune from criticism.
There is one exception, but this report has gone pretty much unnoticed. In February, 2006, Weidemann Associates published a report, commissioned by USAID, which was intended to evaluate the CARPE (Central African Regional Program for the Environment). The team spent a grand total of three weeks in central Africa, and it took me four days to reach one village that has yet to be evaluated by an on-ground assessment by USAID. Weidemann’s time was managed, and the report says as much. Still, some serious criticism was leveled at the management of the CARPE program, which over seven years has earmarked $73M and counting from USAID alone.
The Weidemann Report criticized the linkage of funding to specific geographic areas, or “landscapes,” without accountability to the village governances which signed over the land in the first place. Like the hapless villagers in the Greenpeace reports who traded salt for land, villagers in the CARPE program traded land for universities and health clinics which materialized in the form of half-constructed buildings and medical exam tables which represent “community clinics.”
The Weidemann Report quotes unnamed “observers” who termed the landscape grants “pork for the conservation movement, with minimal CARPE ownership by national governments.”
USAID is criticized for providing insufficient management structure for the scope of the undertaking, a program design that does not provide monitoring across “a confusing array of US Government and NGO organizations “whose efforts were very unevenly implemented in scope, scale, and geographic focus.” Take a look at the graphic posted here. John Le Carre’s fictional “Three Bees” corporation notwithstanding (The Constant Gardener), there is something sinister about Pfizer Pharmaceuticals phallic arrow jabbing at the DFGFI logo.
A Freedom of Information request on this issue was submitted to USAID in January , but experience has shown that a response could take years. We need a Congressional Investigation. If Americans don’t care about the villagers, perhaps they care about their tax dollars which are being laundered in the heart of darkness. If the road to hell is paved with good intentions, then the acrimonious trinity composed of USAID, CARPE and business interests in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is the three-headed dog that guards the maws of Hades.