The forest-wood sector in the DRC: in between despair and hope


In a country where the informal sector produces twelve times more wood than the formal sector, how can the formal forest economy be developed?

Under everyone's eyes, some Chinese-owned forestry companies (COKIBAFODE and Congo Sun Flower) transport logs in large quantities on the National N ° 1, to store them in a log yard in the mangroves close to the port of Moanda and then load them by barge onto ships bound for China.

Meanwhile the country's formal industrial logging companies are struggling to survive. However, they respect the legislation in place, invested in development plans and in the construction of processing plants. Some have even embarked on forest certification processes. Fifteen years ago there were about twenty of them, but logistical costs and delays, taxation and the dysfunction of administrative services have pushed the majority of companies to stop activities for reasons of non-profitability.

Currently government revenues from the forest economy rely entirely on the remaining five companies. How can all the other players in the forest-wood sector, who together produce twelve times more than the five companies, contribute?

© VisioTerra - Log park in the mangroves near the port of Moanda

Work to be done on the regularisation of actors

Part of the solution lies in formalizing these other businesses. CIFOR, through its FORETS and PROFEAAC projects, seeks to help informal artisans to formalize themselves. It is not easy to convince craftsmen to formalize themselves. Not only are the rules and duration of the process unclear, but there is also little trust in the administration. These are concerns about excessive fines and taxation which are applied to formal entrepreneurs and the non-functioning of the social security system.

The CIFOR projects, which started in Kisangani in the province of Tshopo, make it possible to properly inform craftsmen about the formalization procedures, and about the legislation by which they are concerned. This allows not only to respect this legislation, but also to be competent to respond to false accusations of illegality or non-payment of taxes.

 © VisioTerra - Printing the quantity of logs stored in 2020

Work also needs to be done on product quality

At the same time, the project provides technical training to formal artisans to help them achieve better yield and better-quality products than their informal competitors while respecting the environment and its communities. Among others, there is an experiment in progress for the drying of lumber with solar energy and wood waste.

© Photo : Silvia FERRARI - Solar and biomass powered artisanal dryer

Indeed, inside the country the supply of electricity is irregular and expensive. The operating costs of a generator, in addition to the drying time of the sawn timber (read: duration of non-mobilized capital), require craftsmen to make a large investment, the financing of which with their own funds is often impossible. Solar-powered drying kilns are manufactured on-site using local materials, including plant material for the thermal insulation of the walls of the drying kiln. The water heated by the sun and by the heat of a biomass boiler, travels through the radiators inside the kiln and allows the sawn wood to be dried. Silvia FERRARI, a researcher specializing in wood drying, works with craftsmen to optimize the system and to train them on the drying time depending on the thickness and species of sawn timber. This exciting subject could become a solution for many artisans and small businesses in the Congo Basin and elsewhere, and we will not fail to inform you of the results!

© Photo : Silvia FERRARI - Loaded artisanal dryer