Gateway to international timbertrade

Democratic Republic of the Congo

Forest resources

According to the FAO (2015) the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has around 152.6 million hectares of forested land, which constitutes to 67.3% of the total land area. Around 152.5 million hectares are primary or otherwise naturally regenerated forest, and around 60 thousand hectares are planted forest. The full 100% of the forest area the land is publicly owned. Only around 10% of DRC’s forests are currently designated for logging (WWF-DRC). The new forest legislation (2002) divides the national forest territory into a public domain and a private domain of the state. (Verifor, 2008). Land tenure has evolved in the DRC without formal recognition of communities’ customary ownership rights over forest lands they have occupied and used for generations, although traditional practices remain widespread. Reforms have left governance gaps, inconsistencies and ambiguities in the regulation of commercial and artisanal forest activities, and in safeguarding community rights, that urgently need resolution. (Forest Peoples Program, 2016).

DRC’s forests cover closed high rainforests, open forests and woody savannah. The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is part of Africa’s Congo Basin, together with Cameroon, Central African Republic, Republic of the Congo, Equatorial Guinea and Gabon. DRC is the most biologically diverse country in Africa and one of the most important centres of biodiversity in the world, encompassing over half of Africa’s tropical forest.  Overall, the DR Congo is known to have more than 15,000 plant and animal species, including 450 mammals, 1,150 birds, 300 reptiles and 200 amphibians, and more than 3,200 endemics such as the okapi, Congolese peacock, and bonobo (WWF-DRC). Mountains and high plains are at the eastern border with Uganda and Rwanda, including the Virunga National Parc, home of the famous mountain gorilla.

The country has suffered decades of tyranny followed by a civil war that has claimed the lives of many people. The chaos of the Mobutu decades and the failure to invest in infrastructure has meant that, up to now, relatively little of DRC’s forests have been exploited industrially (Fern, 2006).

The forest also provides a means of sustenance to many indigenous forest people, collectively known as ‘Pygmies’. Many Pygmy groups are now semi-sedentarised, but most retain very strong cultural links with the forest, and spend a significant portion of the year in the forest hunting, gathering and cultivating (Fern, 2006).

Although the deforestation rate is relatively low compared with that of many other tropical countries (0.2% over the last 25 years), it represents an area of over 300,000 ha per year in the case of this vast country. It is among the highest deforestation figures in the Congo Basin and is rising. Main drivers of deforestation in DRC are slash and burn agriculture, uncontrolled bushfires, charcoal production for local and regional markets, cattle ranching, and, last but not least: illegal (artisanal) logging.

The DRC Forest Code (2002) distinguishes three categories of forests:

  • Forêts Classées (classified forests), such as Nature reserves, Fauna Reserves, Recreational Forests and National Parks – public domain: these forests are often called ‘protected areas’, but shouldn’t be mistaken with the next category of protected forests. The forests have been defined by an classification act and have juridical limitations on user rights and exploitation, based on their ecological values. Classified forest shall make out at least 15% of the total DRC territory.
  • Forêts protégées (protected forests). Protected forests are those that are not defined by a classification act and they have less restrictions on user and exploitation rights. Protected forests can be part of a concession contract, for a term not exceeding 25 years. Also, a local community can obtain concession rights on the protected forest, for a part or the total area, when the community has customary rights on that forest. (Examples are the artisanal logging permit and harvesting permit).
  • Forêts de production permanente (permanent production forests) : Those forests are subtracted from the protected forests, by public inquiry. The Forest Code’s regulations on exploitation apply. Forest concessions and Local community forest are examples of permanent production forests.

(Source : atlas forestier interactif RDC – WRI)

Production and export

According to ITTO (2015) the industry of the Democratic Republic of the Congo produced in 2014 about 4.6 million m3 of logs, of which 4,6% was exported. The majority of the harvested timber is used for the domestic market. The export value of primary timber products is around 172.2 million US dollars. These exports consist primarily of log exports and to a lesser extent the export of sawn timber.

Other sources give different figures. Figures above are official data from customs in the timber-receiving countries. According to Verifor, annual timber production is difficult to quantify, in particular because authorities do not have control over timber export outlets. According to Chatham House (2014), nearly 90% of logging in the DRC is illegal or informal, small-scale logging to supply domestic and regional markets. The volume of this harvesting is estimated to have doubled in the last six years, in response to a growing population and income levels.

The main logging areas currently include parts of Orientale, Equateur and Bandundu Former Provinces, usually close to the Congo river and its larger tributaries. Most forest companies (almost 95% of the administrative surface) are in foreign hands (WRI atlas DRC).

Around 80 species of commercially valuable trees are found in DRC’s forests, but a handful dominates trade (Fern, 2006). These include:

  • Afrormosia (Pericopsis elata), which is listed under CITES but is still being intensively exploited in Equateur Province
  • Doussie (Afzelia bipedensis),
  • Iroko (Milicia excelsa)
  • Sipo / Sapelli (Entandrophragma spp.).

China and Europe are the main export markets, as we can see in the graph above. Exports are dominated by export of logs and to a lesser extent sawnwood. The country has very little domestic wood processing capacity – there are 15 sawmills around Kinshasa, Mbandaka and Kisangani, and one plywood mill in Kinshasa.

Transportation seawards (to the port of Matadi) from the interior of the country requires transfer of logs brought down river onto a rail or road link to bypass the Stanley Falls on the river below Kinshasa. The port of Matadi itself has limited capacity.

Legality framework

Since August 2002, the Congolese public authorities, with support of the international donor community, reorganised the forest sector with the adoption of a new Forest Code. The Forest Code lays down a balanced management system integrating ecological, economic, as well as social factors. The new forest legislation divides the national forest territory into a public domain and a private domain of the state. The only forest exploitation titles are Forest Concessions, granted in the form of a contract to a concessionaire or to a local Community. On top of this, a concessionaire shall have the rights to harvest, by obtaining a harvesting permit (‘permis ordinaire de coupe’, ‘permis de coupe artisanale’, etc.).

According to article 75 of the August 29, 2002 Forest Code, “control, monitoring and evaluation of the implementation of management plans of forest concessions are to be carried out by the forest administration”. The Ministry of the environment and sustainable Development (MECNDD), has several directorates, such as:

  • Direction de la gestion Forestière (DGF), Division of Forest Management, responsible to keep track on exploitation.
  • Direction des inventaires et de l’aménagement forestier (DIAF), Division of inventories and forest management, responsible for forest management and inventories.
  • Direction de Contrôle et Vérification Interne (DCVI), Division of inspection and verification, in charge of criminal investigation with judicial police prerogatives on issues relating to the environment and nature conservation.

In order to give proof of the legal rights to harvest, a forest management company must possess several documents, such as the registration certificate and form delivered by Judiciary authorities, registration with “RNC” (Numéro au Registre de Commerce), registration number, affiliation certificate to l'Institut National de Sécurité Sociale (INSS – National Institut of social security), registration document for workers and a license to operate in the logging sector.

Permanent production forests can be used for exploitation. Acquisition of a ‘Contrat de Concession Forestière’ (CCF) is preceded by a public inquiry and has a validity of 25 years, renewable (renewal procedure is included in the CCF). According to the surface of the concession (below or over 300,000 ha), different procedures apply. Article 83 of the Forest Code provides that concessions should be acquired normally through open bidding, though discretionary (gré à gré) attributions are exceptionally allowed.

Exploitation of a Forest Concession, has to be based on an approved Management Plan and a ‘Cahier des Charges’, a specification which sets out specific obligations of the concessionaire, which is annexed to the logging permit.

Article 98 of the Forest code states that logging authorizations are governed by an ‘Arrêté’ of the Minister in charge of Forest. The Current Ministerial Order in force is “Arrêté Ministériel N°050 du 23 septembre 2015 relatif à l’exploitation forestière du bois d’oeuvre

Exploitation permits and authorisations are governed by Arrêté ministériel n° 035 /cab/ min/ecn-ef/2006 ( 5 0ctobre 2006), and is modified by subsequent regulations. The latest regulations is Arrêté Ministériel N°050, mentioned above. Various types of permits exist depending on the type of activities concerned.

With regard to lumber (bois d’oeuvre), there are three types of permits namely:

  1. The ‘permis de coupe industrielle de bois d'œuvre’ – industrial logging permit (for industrial concession holders. This is issued by the Minister in charge of forest on the basis of an annual operation plan. Its validity is one year (from 1st January to 31st December) with a possibility of extension for up to 2 years. It allows the operator to log in a forest concession in accordance with the prescription of the management plan and on the relevant yearly harvesting block. It replaces the former “permis ordinaire de coupe”.
  2. The ‘permis de coupe artisanale de bois d'œuvre’  -  artisanal logging permit. It is granted to artisanal loggers by the Governor of the Province. It gives the holder the right to harvest timber in a protected forest other than the forest concession. It is subdivided in two categories namely, the 1st and 2nd categories. The permis de coupe artisanale of the first category can cover an area of 10 to 50 hectares and allows the holder to harvest timber of less than 7 m3. The artisanal logging permit of the 2nd category is valid for one year. It allows the holder to harvest timber in an artisanal forest unit according to the prescriptions of the annual operation plan.
  3. Le permis d'exploitation des bois privés – exploitation permit for private forests. This permit is granted by the Governor of the province to the beneficiary of a land tenure concession in which there are trees or to the owner of a plantation forest.

In addition to these, there are other types of permits namely:

  • The carbonisation and firewood licences (permis de coupe de bois de feu et de carbonisation)
  • Licence to harvest (permis de récolte). This is granted by the Governor of the province. It is a license that gives the right to harvest non-timber forest products (NTFPs) for commercial or research purposes. It allows the holder to harvest non timber forest product within a maximum period of 1 year and in an area of less than 50 hectares.
  • Land-clearing permits (Permis de déboisement). It is granted by the Governor of the province or the Minister. It covers an area of at least 1 hectare within a forest concession or elsewhere. It is governed by “Article 11 et 12 of arrêté ministériel n°025/cab/ min/ecn-t/15/jeb/2008 ( 7 August 2008).
  • Autorisation de coupe industrielle de bois d’oeuvre spéciale – ACIBOs.  This special logging permit, is meant for harvest of protected timber species. For example:  As an endangered species regulated by CITES, Afrormosia (Pericopsis elata) can only be logged with a special yearly cutting permit (ACIBO). Those yearly cutting permits should be signed before the start of the calendar year of harvest. This type of authorization remains in force only for those that were issued before the entry into force of the Ministerial Order No. 050 (23 of September 2015), governing the exploitation of timber (Article 88).

Taxes

Tax returns on timber production have to be in compliance with rules and regulations. Timber harvesting companies are required to declare, every quarter, to the forestry administration the harvested timber volume of the previous quarter. The tax return includes data on the production and processing of forest products and is the basis on which fees payable by a logging company are calculated. Examples of taxes to be paid:

  • Surface area tax
  • Felling tax
  • Reforestation tax
  • Deforestation tax
  • Tax on the operating license
  • Export tax

Traceability - Système d’Information de Gestion Forestière (SIGEF)

Stumps of harvested trees are hammer marked or painted according to regulatory requirements. Billets of timber and logs in forest yards must be marked according to the rules so that they can be easily traced. Markings required on logs and billets of timber are: the tree number, the log or billet number, the company stamp or hammer, number of the felling permit, record of the harvesting site of the tree. (Guide to legal documentation – WWF DRC).

Beginning in 2010, a new independent chain of custody system has been implemented in selected provinces in the DRC by the international verification company Société Générale de Surveillance (SGS). The system includes all best practice elements, including tamper-proof barcodes and computerized databases that allow reconciliation of timber volumes at different points in the supply chain. The chain of custody system (PCPCB) is tied to a new forest management information system also developed by SGS. While the system follows best practice, it has a number of fundamental flaws. Some important timber producing provinces, including Bandundu and Equateur, are not covered by the system. Even within those provinces that are included, coverage is sparse. It is also unclear how the new system can safely determine legality of exports anyway, since, according to the OI-FLEG, the regulations governing the export of logs and sawn timber are still not complete (Lawson, 2014).

Key documents

The below listed key documents are based on the applicable legislation and are considered to play a key role in demonstrating legal origin. The full list of applicable legislation is accessible here (Global Forest Registry).

Harvesting

Statuts notariés signés et tamponnés
Notaire
Duly approved Articles of Association. Document required for legal existence in the DRC.
Bordereaux de versement des frais de publication au Journal Officiel
Journal Officiel
Proof of payment of the publication fee in the official journal. Document required for legal existence in the DRC.
Lettre d’attribution du numéro d’identification nationale
Ministère de l’économie
Proof of registration with the ministry of economics (allocation of an identification number). Document required for legal existence in the DRC.
Extrait du RCCM: preuve d’enregistrement au Registre de commerce et crédit mobilier
Greffe du tribunal
Proof of registration with the Chambre of Commerce and credits. Document required for legal existence in the DRC.
License to operate
Forestry administration MECNDD
The company must hold a concession contract. NB: The legislation on the allocation of forest concessions is changing rapidly
Cahier des Charges
A CCF includes a ‘Cahier des Charges’ (annex), which is a specification setting out specific obligations of the concessionaire (for example towards local communities)
1) Permis de coupe industrielle de bois d'œuvre
Minister of ECNDD
Industrial logging permit ‘ based on the annual operation plan. Validity is one year (from 1st January to 31st December) with a possibility of extension for up to 2 years. It allows the operator to log in a forest concession in accordance with the prescription of the management plan and on the relevant yearly harvesting block.
2) Permis de coupe artisanale de bois d'œuvre’
Governor of the Province
The Artisanal logging permit - granted to artisanal loggers It gives the holder the right to harvest timber in a protected forest other than the forest concession. It is subdivided in two categories namely, the 1st and 2nd categories. The artisanal logging permit of the first category can cover an area of 10 to 50 hectares and allows the holder to harvest timber of less than 7 m3. The artisanal logging permit of the 2nd category is valid for one year. It allows the holder to harvest timber in an artisanal forest unit according to the prescriptions of the annual operation plan.
3) Permis d'exploitation des bois privés
Governor of the province
Exploitation permit for private forests – to the beneficiary of a land tenure concession in which there are trees or to the owner of a plantation forest. This permit gives the holder, the right to harvest timber found on lands belonging to private individuals, that is, lands over which the owner has been granted a land concession.
4) Permis de déboisement
Governor of the province or the Minister
Land-clearing permit, covering an area of at least 1 hectare within a forest concession or elsewhere. It is governed by “Article 11 et 12 of arrêté ministériel n°025/cab/ min/ecn-t/15/jeb/2008 ( 7 August 2008).
5) Autorisation de coupe industrielle de bois d’oeuvre spéciale – ACIBOs
Special logging permit - ACIBOs, meant for harvest of protected timber species. For example: As an endangered species regulated by CITES, Afrormosia (Pericopsis elata) can only be logged with a special yearly cutting permit (ACIBO). Those yearly cutting permits should be signed before the start of the calendar year of harvest. This type of authorization remains in force only for those that were issued before the entry into force of the Ministerial Order No. 050 (23 of September 2015), governing the exploitation of timber (Article 88).

Trade and export

Import / export licence
Ministry in charge of Commerce; Direction générale des douanes et accises (DGDA)
A company involved in the export of timber products should hold an export licence, renewable annually, in which the registration with the DGDA (import-export number) is given.
Approved specification sheet
Forestry authority
The exporting company should complete a specification sheet detailing all timber products to be exported by species, quality and quantity. The specification sheet should be submitted to the appropriate forestry authority for approval. The approval of submitted specification sheet is conditional on the presentation of proof of payment of all taxes.
Déclaration de « marchandises » à l’exportation et à l’importation
Direction générale des douanes et accises (DGDA)
Declaration of goods to be imported / exported.
Certificat de vérification à l’exportation (CVE)
Office Congolais de Contrôle (OCC)
Export verification certificate.
Contrat de vente validé
Selling & buying company
Signed / validated sales contract
Note de débit de l’impôt sur le chiffre d’affaire
Direction Générale des Impôts (DGI)
Proof of payment of sales tax. Part of the documents demonstrating conformity with fiscal obligations.
Note de perception de l’impôt sur le chiffre d’affaire avec apurement
DGRAD + banc
Proof of receipt of the tax payments, with clearance. Part of the documents demonstrating conformity with fiscal obligations.
Note de débit de la redevance de superficie
Fonds Forestier National (FFN)
Debit note of the surface tax. Part of the documents demonstrating conformity with fiscal obligations.
Note de perception de la redevance de superficie apurée
DGRAD + banc
Proof of receipt of surface tax, with clearance. Part of the documents demonstrating conformity with fiscal obligations.
Invoice
Prepared by the selling company covering the specific batch (and should be in accordance with the approved specification sheet)
Certificat d’Origine
Forestry Authorities at province level
Certificate of origin for the export of a specific timber batch, indicating the country of origin
Export documents : - Déclaration en douane - Quittance de perception de la banque - Bulletin de liquidation - Bon de sortie
Customs
Customs declaration, bank receipt, liquidation bulletin, export list
Paiement des droits de sortie du bois
Direction Générale des Douanes et Accises (DGDA)
Proof of payment of all customs charges
Attestation de vérification
Office Congolais de Contrôle (OCC)
Certificate of independent verification of the goods by OCC

Bans and quota

Since 2002, a moratorium on new logging concessions has been in place, but has been violated as well, according to some. The government is now (early 2016) considering to re-open its forests to new logging concessions, which has caused actions by NGO’s which are against lifting of the moratorium. (REDD monitor, 2016).

Cites and protected spieces

One of Congo’s prime timber species, Afrormosia (Pericopsis elata) is listed under annex II of CITES (The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora), but there have been problems of administration of the licenses required to export such species. For Afrormosia a quota of 49,749 m3 of logs, sawn wood and veneer sheets is in preparation. From January 1st, 2015, the Democratic Republic of Congo will only authorize exports of P. elata timber according to the CITES Convention framework, provided that such timber is sourced from forest concessions where, in compliance with legal requirements, inventory management reports have been submitted to the national forestry administration. Furthermore, authorized export volumes of P. elata timber will be strictly limited to a yearly sustainable quota determined on the strength of results provided by submitted management inventories. From 2015, the annual CITES quota for the species will be established on the same bases.

• Red stinkwood (Prunus africana); with a quota of 232,000 kg of dry bark for 2015.

In April 2014 the CITES Secretariat notified Parties of the existence of a “large number of fake or falsified [export] permits apparently issued by the Democratic Republic of the Congo”, and provided a long list of “permits… that are unaccounted for”, meaning that it is not clear whether the CITES authorities in the DRC have correctly issued them The Secretariat requested that Parties contact it to check the validity of any CITES permits from the DRC before accepting them.(Trading in Chaos – Greenpeace report).

There seems to be no special list of protected timber species at the national level apart from those listed by the CITES convention (DRC is a signatory country) and limitations given within each specific forest management plan. (Traffic / WWF-GFTN).

National action on timber legality

The Democratic Republic of the Congo is negotiating a VPA with the EU, and negotiations started in October 2010. However, the progress so far is limited. Simon Counsell (Fern report 2006) argues that such a VPA is only possible in DRC if a clear and complete legal framework, as well as a rigorous ‘Forest Zoning Plan’, is in place. The process towards developing such a VPA could, however, give stimulus to the completion of the legal framework and ensure that forest zoning is carried out in such a way as to give it wide legitimacy and public ‘ownership’.

In the DRC an Independent Monitor of Forest Law Enforcement and Governance (IM-FLEG) has been working since December 2010 to check forest operations in the field as well as to analyse and give recommendations on improving forest laws and their enforcement – an approach that has been adopted in a number of Central African countries. In the DRC the IM-FLEG has an official mandate from the government and was established with funding from international donors. Its field missions are conducted jointly with government officials and its reports are published only after they have been discussed by a Reading Committee, including representatives of the DRC government, donor institutions, the forestry sector and civil society. The UK-based non-profit organisation Resource Extraction Monitoring (REM) acted as IM-FLEG from December 2010 to April 2013, at which point the DRC-based Observatoire de la Gouvernance Forestière (OGF)  took over the role, which it retains today. OGF has a partnership with the Field Legality Advisory Group, a regional organisation supporting independent forest monitors in the Congo Basin.

As the FLEGT VPA is considered an important instrument for REDD+ and the latter process is benefiting from strong momentum, the country is exploring how REDD+ incentives can be provided to forest concessionaires in order increase compliance with the existing legal framework and as such, leverage the FLEGT VPA process. It is also exploring how both processes can work together to increase land use transparency and accountability through expanding the independent monitoring for FLEG to REDD+ indicators and safeguards. DRC has been working with its REDD+ provincial focal points to advance the broader forest governance agenda at the decentralised level. (Source: FLEGT-week 2015 report)

DRC is considered a front-runner on REDD+ in Africa. It is currently designing a World Bank-funded Emission Reduction Program in Mai Ndombe. The initiative brings together institutional partners, national and local civil society, private sector and international donors to test an integrated approach to tackling illegal logging and its underlying drivers.

Third party certification

Currently there are no active legality certificates (anymore) in DRC. FSC Controlled Wood certificates are terminated or withdrawn. Although there is a Regional FSC standard for the Congo basin region (Norme FSC pour la certification des forêts du Bassin du Congo, 2012), the Democratic Republic of the Congo has no fully FSC-certified forests.

According to Chatham House (2014), less than 10% of the DRC’s area of active industrial logging is independently verified legal and/or sustainable, a much lower proportion than in most other tropical forest countries. Efforts to expand verification and certification have also been held back by the incomplete and conflicting regulatory arrangements, and by the history of conflict between logging companies and local communities.

Within the framework of IDH’s Congo Basin Program, WWF carried out a pilot for Microzoning as a first step to start stakeholder identification and consultation, an inspiring example on how to organise stakeholder involvement.

Contacts

Ministère de l'Environnement, Conservation de la Nature et Développement Durable (MECNDD)
Avenue Papa ILEO EX DE CLINIQUE n°15, Quartier Batetela, Gombe
Kinshasa, RD Congo
Ministry of the environment, nature conservation and sustainable development.
Formerly : MECNT ((Ministry of the Environment, Nature,
Conservation and Tourism)
Direction des inventaires et de l’aménagement forestier (DIAF)
On a national level, Direction des inventaires et de l’aménagement forestier (DIAF) is responsible for forest management and inventories.
Direction de la gestion Forestière (DGF)
Direction de la gestion Forestière (DGF) is responsible to keep track on exploitation.
Direction générale des douanes et accises (DGDA)
Direction Générale des Impôts (DGI)
Part of the ministry of finance, in charge of collection of taxes
Other department within the ministry of finance, in charge of tax clearance
Registre du Commerce et du crédit mobilier (RCCM)
Chambre of Commerce and credit.
(formerly Registre de Commerce)
L’Institut congolais pour la conservation de la nature (ICCN)
Congolese Institute for nature conservation (ICCN) is the public body in charge of national parks in the DRC.
Fonds Forestier National (FFN)
In charge of management of funds for forest projects and surface tax
Centre National d’Information sur l’Environnement (CNIE)
N°17, Limete 7ième Rue Industriel

Kinshasa, République Démocratique du Congo
Environmental information Centre, responsible for the gathering of information, analyses, education, communication.
The country office in Kinshasa opened in March 2004.
Observatoire de la Gouvernance Forestière (OGF)
Building BCDC, 12th floor
Boulevard du 30 juin, Gombe
Kinshasa, République Démocratique du Congo
The DRC-based Observatoire de la Gouvernance Forestière (OGF) has a role as independent forest governance monitor, linked to VPA-FLEGT implementation framework.

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