When the world gets closer.

We help you see farther.

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter.

Already a subscriber? Log in .

You've reached your limit of one free article.

Get unlimited access to Worldcrunch

You can cancel anytime .


Exclusive International news coverage

Ad-free experience NEW

Weekly digital Magazine NEW

9 daily & weekly Newsletters

Access to Worldcrunch archives

Free trial

30-days free access, then $2.90
per month.

Annual Access BEST VALUE

$19.90 per year, save $14.90 compared to monthly billing.save $14.90.

Subscribe to Worldcrunch

Saving The Forests In Congo Means Battling Armed Rebels And Old Habits

In eastern Congo , the dramatic effects of deforestation on the environment can already be seen. A new ban on illegal logging risks running into both forest-plundering rebel groups and the immediate needs of the local population.

A Congolese boy carries a stack of wood (UNHCR/S.Modola)
A Congolese boy carries a stack of wood (UNHCR/S.Modola)

BUKAVU - In the eastern Congolese province of South Kivu, wood is often the only energy source and people have long just helped themselves to a tree when they need to fuel a fire or build furniture.

But since April, facing the effects of deforestation, logging is now officially regulated in South Kivu: if you want to cut down a tree in this province, you must first obtain a special authorization from the government's environmental services. Offenders will be fined up to $1,111 and will have to plant ten trees in a designated area.

Jean-Paul Lubula, the local environmental coordinator, hopes this measure will curb a simmering ecological disaster in this region: longer dry seasons, erosion, landslides.

And yet many say it is doubtful that this ban will put an end to the deforestation, which has dramatically intensified in the past 15 years. The main cause is the proliferation of armed groups – including the regular army – who plunder wood and mineral resources in the region. These "untouchables' do whatever they want in total impunity and no bans or threats of fines are likely to change that.

"Armed men cut down trees to make charcoal which they sell in the markets," says Clément Kitambala, coordinator for Action for the Development of Peasant Communities (ADECOP), an environmental organization.

Kasikiele, from Kikongo village, has faced these groups: "Men from the Mai Mai Alleluya rebel group sometimes force us to cut trees for them."

A local logger named Willy adds: "They have weapons, so who will say no to them?"

Armed forces aren't the only ones plundering the forests, it's also a tradition in these local communities: "When they need wood for fire or to build furniture, they just chop down a tree," explains environmentalist Moïse Masaro. In a province where 80% of the population doesn't have electricity, wood is indeed the only energy source. They need the charcoal to cook.

Late rains, dry rivers

In the district of Minembwe, 60% of people are cattle breeders who regularly set fire to the bush so that they have new leaves to feed their stock. Growers cut trees too, to have more farmable land. Here, you can already see the consequences on the environment: Almost three out of seven springs have already dried up and river levels continue to drop.

Peasants from the Ruzizi tableland don't know when to sow anymore, because the rainy season now comes two or three months later than it used to. In the city of Uvira, the temperature has increased so much that many people are forced to sleep outside.

Although they approve of the new ban, environment activists remain skeptical that it can be effective. "How will they enforce the ban when the forests are in the hands of armed groups?" asks Gisèle Nsimire, an environmentalist from Bukavu. Clément Kitambala adds that Environmental services can only afford to employ two low-skilled agents to police the vast forests.

The coordinator for the ADECOP peasants group also fears the measure will reinforce poverty, because a lot of households survive thanks to the charcoal they sell. Outlawing the cutting of trees also means putting people out of work, who might then be tempted to join the rebels.

In the meantime, charcoal has become more expensive on South Kivu's markets. Local associations have already begun raising awareness among women on how to save firewood. Some NGOs have been distributing or selling new kinds of cookers that consume half as much wood or charcoal.

Read the original article in French

Photo - UNHCR/S.Modola

You've reached your limit of free articles.

To read the full story, start your free trial today.

Get unlimited access. Cancel anytime.

Exclusive coverage from the world's top sources, in English for the first time.

Insights from the widest range of perspectives, languages and countries.


How A Xi Jinping Dinner In San Francisco May Have Sealed Mastercard's Arrival In China

The credit giant becomes only the second player after American Express to be allowed to set up a bank card-clearing RMB operation in mainland China.

Photo of a hand holding a phone displaying an Union Pay logo, with a Mastercard VISA logo in the background of the photo.

Mastercard has just been granted a bank card clearing license in China.

Liu Qianshan


It appears that one of the biggest beneficiaries from Chinese President Xi Jinping's visit to San Francisco was Mastercard.

The U.S. credit card giant has since secured eagerly anticipated approval to expand in China's massive financial sector, having finally obtained long sought approval from China's central bank and financial regulatory authorities to initiate a bank card business in China through its joint venture with its new Chinese partner.

For the latest news & views from every corner of the world, Worldcrunch Today is the only truly international newsletter. Sign up here.

Through a joint venture in China between Mastercard and China's NetsUnion Clearing Corporation, dubbed Mastercard NUCC, it has officially entered mainland China as an RMB currency clearing organization. It's only the second foreign business of its kind to do so following American Express in 2020.

The Wall Street Journal has reported that the development is linked to Chinese President Xi Jinping's meeting on Nov. 15 with U.S. President Joe Biden in San Francisco, part of a two-day visit that also included dinner that Xi had with U.S. business executives.

Keep reading...Show less

The latest