Enslaving Local Communities

Several foreign investments in DR Congo target tree logging.

In resource-rich Democratic Republic of the Congo, lands in the northwest Equator region are parceled out into foreign investments targeting tree logging, mining and growing of food crops, according to Land Matrix data.

There are 87 deals taking up 10.6 million hectares of land across the DRC, according to the Land Matrix – the highest amount of all Nile basin countries, though only a small part of the vast country is actually part of the river basin.  Of these, forest logging takes up the vast majority (53 deals) of the acquired land, with an average deal size of 184,623 hectares and the largest deal taking up 383,255 hectares.

Land Deals in Congo

A Flourish data visualisation

A study of land-grabbing, agricultural investment and land reform in DRC by Chris Huggins, a researcher on land and natural resources rights in Sub-Saharan Africa, identified USA, Germany, Belgium, France and South Africa and China as some of the main investing countries in the DRC. The Land Matrix also identifies Switzerland, Canada, Liechtenstein, Lebanon, and the UK as other major investors, particularly in logging.

In June 2018, an investigation by Global Witness, an international NGO focused on human rights abuses and corruption, found rampant illegal logging across 90 percent of sites owned by Norsudtimber, a European company registered in Lichteinstein that logs in more than 40,000 square kilometers of rainforest in the DRC.

Dorothee Lisenga, the coordinator for Coalition des Femmes Leaders por l’Environnement et le Development Durable (CFLEDD), a Congolese NGO that strives for the recognition of women’s land and forest rights in the provinces of Equateur and Maindombe in the DRC, said women are the most affected group by land grabbing in the country.

Dorothee Lisenga – Coordinator for Coalition des Femmes Leaders por l’Environnement et le Development Durable (CFLEDD)

She said apart from denying local communities, “farmlands and food”, land grabs have turned most local communities into, “slaves working on investors’ farms and mines on land that once belonged to them.” 

Land grabs mean “slavery” to womenDorothee Lisenga, Coordinator for CFLEDD

Most members of the CFLEDD organisation are indigenous pygmy women. Congolese pygmies live forest-based hunter-gatherer livelihoods in the forests of the DRC, the world’s second largest forest. Citing research by her organization, Lisenga says 70 percent of women in the DRC do not have access to land and forest titles.