DRC hosts Africa’s largest expanse of tropical forest, including roughly 60 per cent of the Congo Basin rainforest – home to flora and fauna found nowhere else on earth. These forests are now under unprecedented pressure from the extractive industries, infrastructure development and agricultural expansion as DRC tries to emerge from two decades of political instability and violent conflict that led to the collapse of the economy.
In 2014, it was reported that close to 90 per cent of logging in DRC is illegal, and there is little immediate prospect of state-led improvements to this situation. A moratorium on industrial logging has been in place since 2002, though there have been repeated attempts over the years to have the moratorium lifted.
Efforts to conserve the forest, such as through reducing emissions from deforestation and degradation (REDD) and the protected area network, have often wrongly targeted communities as the agents of forest destruction, further impinging on their land and resource rights.
However, since 2016 the DRC also has arguably the most progressive laws on community forestry in the region. This has allowed communities to secure their collective rights over their traditional lands for the first time, and now they have the opportunity to manage them in a way that preserves both their livelihoods and the forest.