Illegal logging in DRC is rampant with around 90 percent of timber believed to be illegal and with the country’s national moratorium on new logging concessions repeatedly being breached in recent years. Conventional independent forest monitoring by national or international NGOs doesn’t always get to the root of the problem due to the high costs and logistical barriers of organising field missions from capital cities as well as inefficiencies in the reporting and disclosure cycle.
ForestLink is tackling this by empowering communities on the frontline of illegal deforestation. It equips them with the tools to alert civil society and authorities of illegal activities occurring in their forests in real-time. In Equateur province, this effort is coordinated by the local NGO GASHE in collaboration with the Equateur province civil-society group (SOCIPEQ) and the national network of independent observers (RENOI-RDC) led by the mandated Independent Monitor, OGF. During an FGMC supported workshop in August 2018, the Groupe de Travail Plaidoyer (GTP), or “Advocacy working group”, was set up to provide further legal support to local communities.
By equipping communities with simple, low-cost tools to transmit alerts of illegal logging and other forest crime on their lands in real-time, ForestLink can spark powerful civil society action and lead to enhanced and more targeted law enforcement efforts. Crucially, it can also foster greater transparency. By making the data available to different stakeholders, it can show patterns of non-enforcement – for example where lack of verification or enforcement from officials may be evidence of collusion with illegal loggers.