The tropical forests of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) are amongst the most intact on the planet, with deforestation rates far lower than those in the Amazon and South East Asia. Whereas neighbouring countries in the Congo Basin have allocated the vast majority of their forests to industrial logging, DRC is remarkable for its large areas of forest that remain potentially available for more sustainable uses.
One of the main reasons that so much of DRC’s forests remain officially unallocated – up to 75 million hectares – is the country’s national moratorium on new industrial logging concessions. The moratorium was put in place in 2002 to prevent what threatened to become a post-war free-for-all over the country’s vast forest resources. There have been many attempts over the years to lift the moratorium, but with pressure from both national and international organisations the ban on new logging concessions, however fragile, remains in place.
However, now more than at any time over the past 16 years, the ban is under threat, both from illegal allocations – which appear to be linked to political manoeuvring in the country – and from the logging industry, whose supporters have argued that the moratorium has deprived the state and the rural economy of much-needed income. Yet research shows there is little to suggest how opening up DRC’s forests to more logging will result in anything other than catastrophic environmental, social and climate impacts, particularly because forest governance and enforcement against illegal logging remains chronically weak.
Arguably all that stands between the logging industry and one of the world’s last great expanses of tropical forests is a 2005 Presidential Order stating there should be “geographical programming” of future concession areas.
The next in our series of information briefs, At Loggerheads: The Moratorium, Geographical Programming and Community Mapping in DRC, shows that any process which does not sufficiently take into account communities will inevitably result in negative outcomes for both local people and the environment.
Drawing on community maps produced with the support of the MappingForRights initiative, this briefing shows the extent of customary claims and uses of forests, where and how conflicts with loggers are likely to occur, and why it is vitally important to properly document and secure community lands.