A visit to an ‘artisanal’ logging operation.
We are at the gate of an artisanal logging operation where military guards are in charge of the security. “Stop! Where do you come from and who are you?” The armed military asks. With a smile, a member of the Greenpeace delegation replies, “We came to see you.” ”Me?” asks the military? “No, the head of the company,” responds the Greenpeace member." After some hesitation, access is granted.
The territory of Bolobo, located in the District of Plateau, in the Bandundu Province, covers an area of 3.500km². It is an area rich in biodiversity and home to bonobo, elephant and buffalo species, among many others. The people depend mainly on agriculture, fishing, and hunting. Social infrastructure is degraded – the roads are in a terrible state and access is possible only via privately maintained routes.
Forests are invaded by "so-called artisanal loggers," who log trees on an industrial scale.
Artisanal logging, reserved only for Congolese businessmen, has become the activity of expatriates from all sides - Chinese, Lebanese, Bulgarian – all operate with impunity and with the blessing of the Congolese authorities.
It’s worrying how these foreigners behave like they have conquered the land. Worse still, they receive military protection; they are among the highly protected "untouchables". Because of the military presence, their operations are not easily accessible, and therefore uncontrollable, even by government agents committed to this task.
How can we get information on artisanal logging, with this intimidating military presence?
A team member whispers tremulously”I have never experienced anything like this... “. A few seconds of silence and another team member continues, “my father always told me you have to take risks to get somewhere." This phrase comforts the whole team.
While the Congolese forest is systematically looted and destroyed, the local population continues to live in misery. Not being sufficiently informed about their rights, they do not have the ability to negotiate with the ‘artisanal’ logging companies, who only donate some small gifts to the traditional chief. The forest of my country is sold off the price of a bicycle.
We are calling on the government to cancel all ‘artisanal ‘ permits, used for industrial logging operations, because this illegal practice is bypassing the moratorium on the allocation of new industrial logging concessions. Only by doing this, can we preserve the forests for our people, our biodiversity and our climate.