Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Congo's Forest

The DRC has the world’s second largest rainforest, about 135 million hectares, which is a powerful bulwark against climate change. Thousands of logs loaded into makeshift boats at the port of Inongo at Lake Mai-Ndombe stand ready to be transported to Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Inongo is the provincial capital of the Mai-Ndombe Province, a 13-million-hectare area located some 650 km northeast of Kinshasa. The logs have been illegally cut from the Mai-Ndombe forest, an area of 10 million hectares, which has some trees measuring between 35 and 45 meters.

“We witness this kind of spectacle every day, whereby tons and tons of logs and timber find their way to the capital either via the Congo River or by road, where they will eventually be shipped overseas, or just sold to the black market,” environment activist Prosper Ngobila told IPS.
Mbo, the truck driver who brought the load, confirmed: “This stock and others that are already gone to the capital are destined for overseas export. I’m only a transporter, but I understand that the owner of this business is a very powerful man, almost untouchable.”
The forests of Mai-Ndombe (“black water” in Lingala) are rich in rare and precious woods (red wood, black wood, blue wood, tola, kambala, lifake, among others). It is also home to about 7,500 bonobos, an endangered primate and the closest cousin to humans of all species, sharing 98 percent of our genes, according to the WWF.
The forests constitute a vital platform providing livelihoods for some 73,000 indigenous individuals, mostly Batwa (Pygmies), who live here alongside the province’s 1.8 million population, many of whom with no secure land rights. Under the DRC’s 2014 Forest Code, indigenous people and local communities have the legal right to own forest covering an area of up to 50,000 hectares. Thirteen communities in the territories of Mushie and Bolobo in the Mai-Ndombe province have since asked for formal title of a total of 65,308 hectares of land, reports said, adding that only 300 hectares have been legally recognised for each community – a total of only 3,900 hectares.
Marine Gauthier, a Paris-based expert who authored a report on the sorry state of the Mai-Ndombe forest, told IPS in the aftermath of the report’s release, “In DRC and more specifically in the Mai-Ndombe, the history of natural resources management has always been done at the expense of local communities.
“Industrial logging concessions have been granted on their traditional lands without their consent and destroyed their environment without any form of compensation, and protected areas have been established on their lands prohibiting them to access to the forest where they hunt, gather, conduct traditional rituals, hence severing them from their livelihood and culture – again, without their consent.”

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