What we do: protecting ancient forests

Logging is the single biggest threat to the Congo Basin rainforest. At the moment, logging companies working mostly in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) are busy cutting down trees over 50 million hectares of rainforest, or an area the size of France.

Bandundu province, DRC

Aerial photograph of the Bandundu province of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. © Greenpeace / Kate Davison

Rainforests provide shelter and food for the people living near them; they also help the rest of us breathe by providing oxygen.

But every two seconds we destroy the equivalent of an entire soccer field in our greed to get timber to make books, furniture, houses or even toilet paper.

And every time we destroy an intact tropical forest, we devastate the communities that depend on it, change the climate and cause the extinction of many species of wildlife.

Here in Africa, 40 million people depend on the Congo Basin rainforest. They’re fed by it, housed by it, clothed by it and even healed by it. The rain forest is also home for 270 species of mammals, including the endangered gorilla, the chimpanzee and the bonobo, as well as 39 unique species of animals that are only found here.

It’s the second largest rainforest on Earth, after the Amazon, and is a vital weapon in fighting climate change.

The Democratic Republic of Congo holds more than eight percent of the world’s carbon stocks – it’s the fourth largest foreign carbon reservoir in the world. And we’re destroying it.

The Congo Basin rainforest

Children of a logger stand in front of Afrormosia logs in the DRC. Their father makes 400 Congolese Franc per day, which is less than one dollar.

Logging is the single biggest threat to the Congo Basin rainforest. At the moment, logging companies working mostly in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) are busy cutting down trees over 50 million hectares of rainforest, or an area the size of France. A third of this is actually designated as a priority conservation area. Another third is home to afrormosia, the endangered tree species. Throughout the entire region are people who depend on the forests to survive.

The government, supported by international donors and the World Bank, is actually encouraging industrial logging to turn back poverty and develop these areas. All they’re doing is selling the birthright of the people who live there, who are already being forced to survive on less than a dollar a day.

Greenpeace has investigated the logging operations in the Congo Basin and exposed the most unscrupulous and corrupt operators. These companies are guilty of bribing public servants, not paying taxes and bending the system to avoid getting caught. One of the worst offenders is the Danzer Group, a German Swiss operation, which has been cheating the people of the DRC out of millions by evading taxes.

In 2008, if Danzer had actually paid its tax bill of nearly 8 million Euros ($10 million), the government could have vaccinated 700 000 of its children. Instead Danzer, and other groups like it, got the natural wealth of the Congolese for the barter of bags of salt, soap, coffee, beer and sugar.  A century ago they would have thrown in a handful of worthless beads to sweeten the deal.

As for corporate social investment, like building schools and clinics for the local communities, there is nothing worth the name. It either doesn’t happen or that which is built is just lip-service  to the bare minimum.

Click for the solutions to deforestation


Helping to fight climate change

Forests are the most important tool in keeping climate change to a minimum because they are a huge carbon reserve, turning carbon back into oxygen and letting the world breathe. But if the logging in the DRC continues unchecked, the country will have lost almost half its rainforest by 2050. The area north of the Congo River will actually be totally deforested.

To put this another way, this will release 34,4 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide. That’s equal to the total emissions in the United Kingdom for the last 60 years.

The economics are simple: the forests are worth more as carbon stores than their wood is worth in whatever shape or form in European markets. Emissions from deforestation amount to 20 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions. If we stop it and protect our forests through a globally funded system, we will not only create sustainable jobs for the people who live there, we’ll also help the world to breathe as we protect the climate.

Find out more about Forests for Climate


The war isn’t lost, but there's no time to lose if we’re going to save the rainforests.

Greenpeace is calling for:

  • Zero deforestation in the world's intact tropical forests by 2020
  • The adoption of the Forests for Climate project, where it makes more money to save them than destroy them
  • The destruction of the international market for illegal timber, and
  • The lobbying of the DRC government to get local communities involved in protecting their forests with the backing and protection of the government as part of an integrated national land use plan.

The latest updates


Illegal logging: Fuelling conflict and damaging livelihoods

Blog entry by Irene Wabiwa | July 16, 2015

The fight against illegal logging has been a long and protracted one. Greenpeace itself has been involved for more than 20 years and, while it is undeniable that some progress has been made, it is equally evident that it continues to...

Congo logging chaos leaves people and bonobos at the sharp end

Blog entry by Raoul Monsembula | May 26, 2015

"Chaos" and "chaotic" are frequently - perhaps even overly - used words. One dictionary definition is a "total lack of organisation or order". That can be said certainly of the industrial logging sector in the Democratic Republic of...

Trading in Chaos

Publication | May 26, 2015 at 10:00

The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is home to the large majority of the world's second-largest rainforested area, an area that plays a vital role in maintaining the global climate. But corruption and a lack of political will are among the...

Cameroon: An example of the work needed to combat illegal logging

Blog entry by Eric Ini | March 20, 2015

Policy wonks, experts, campaigners and other stakeholders  met in Brussels this week  to discuss progress under the European Union's Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) Action plan. Yet the effectiveness of the...

Tropical deforestation is bad news – the science keeps telling us

Blog entry by Dr Janet Cotter | January 19, 2015

Deforestation is very bad news for the environment and for the climate. It is bad news for biodiversity and releases greenhouses gases into the atmosphere – we know that. But the science is increasingly certain that deforestation is...

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