When the world gets closer.

We help you see farther.

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter.

Sources

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 monthly limit of free articles.
To read the full article, please subscribe.
Get unlimited access. Support Worldcrunch's unique mission:
  • Exclusive coverage from the world's top sources, in English for the first time.
  • Stories from the best international journalists.
  • Insights from the widest range of perspectives, languages and countries
Already a subscriber? Log in

When the world gets closer, we help you see farther

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter!
Society

Journalism In A Zero-Trust World: Maria Ressa Speaks After Rappler Shut Down Again

The Rappler CEO and Nobel Peace Prize winner spoke with The Wire's Arfa Khanum Sherwani about how journalists everywhere need to prepare themselves for the worst-case scenario of government-ordered closure and what they should do to face up to such a challenge.

Maria Ressa, Filipino journalist, author and Nobel Peace Prize laureate

Arfa Khanum Sherwani

HONOLULU — For someone who’s just been ordered to shut down the news website she runs, Rappler CEO Maria Ressa is remarkably cheerful about what may happen next.

In a speech she gave to a conference at the East-West Center here on challenges the media face in a “zero trust world”, Ressa said that she and her colleagues were prepared for this escalation in the Philippines government’s war on independent media and will carry on doing the work they do. “If you live in a country where the rule of law is bent to the point it’s broken, anything is possible…. So you have to be prepared.”

Keep reading...Show less

When the world gets closer, we help you see farther

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter!
You've reached your monthly limit of free articles.
To read the full article, please subscribe.
Get unlimited access. Support Worldcrunch's unique mission:
  • Exclusive coverage from the world's top sources, in English for the first time.
  • Stories from the best international journalists.
  • Insights from the widest range of perspectives, languages and countries
Already a subscriber? Log in
THE LATEST
FOCUS
TRENDING TOPICS

Central to the tragic absurdity of this war is the question of language. Vladimir Putin has repeated that protecting ethnic Russians and the Russian-speaking populations of Ukraine was a driving motivation for his invasion.

Yet one month on, a quick look at the map shows that many of the worst-hit cities are those where Russian is the predominant language: Kharkiv, Odesa, Kherson.

Watch VideoShow less
MOST READ