The voice of artisanal loggers in the Orientale Province of DR Congo is heard

The voice of artisanal loggers in the Orientale Province of DR Congo is heard

DR Congo - 22 February, 2017

During years artisanal loggers in the Orientale Province of DR Congo have been faced with all sort of irregularities from the authorities at the moment of paying taxes, processing logging permits and paying fees. As was the case on 13 January 2017 when the chair of an association of artisanal loggers from Bafwasende went with 15,000 US$ in an envelope to pay the taxes owed by the members of its association to the province of Tshopo. But the authorities didn’t issue the permit for the period stipulated by the law.

Since 2006, the national legislation in DR Congo has set the duration of artisanal logging permits for three years. In 2015 it was changed into five years with a fixed fee between 100 and 500 US$. Despite that the regulation exists, artisanal loggers of the Orientale Province are required to pay their permit fees yearly and at a price of US$600. The loggers have complained with the forestry administration as well as the provincial authorities, but their claims remain unheard.

As a response to these problems and the negotiations for the Voluntary Partnership Agreement for Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT-VPA) that have taken place in DR Congo since 2010, Tropenbos DR Congo has worked with artisanal loggers to promote and develop the legality of the artisanal logging sector. These efforts are starting to give results as artisanal loggers have formed associations and started to pay taxes voluntarily, as the case mentioned above.

Despite of the efforts from Tropenbos DR Congo and the artisanal loggers still the authorities don’t show their willingness to change, as was the case on 13 January. As reaction to this issue, Tropenbos DR Congo intervened by meeting with the Provincial Minister of the Environment and Conservation of Nature and the governor to explain to them the advances already booked with artisanal loggers in respecting the law and that the authorities should also set an example. After this meeting, the governor requested a meeting at the provincial Minister of the Environment and Conservation of Nature with Tropenbos DR Congo, artisanal loggers and the state experts. At the end of the meeting, the governor took the decision to enforce the national ministerial order who sets the duration of the permits to 5 years. However, the fee of US$600 remains as well as the payment in a single instalment.

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Artisanal loggers and Tropenbos DR Congo welcome the decision although there are still points that could be improved. The loggers were also pleased to see that their claims and struggles where heard and act upon thanks to the inset of Tropenbos DR Congo.

To make public the outcome of this long advocacy process, Tropenbos DR Congo organized a press conference on 24 January 2017 to explain to the media of Kisangani the process and issues of this negotiation. And send a message to the artisanal loggers that they should also be flexible and should do their part in the whole process. Even more, to be aware that in any negotiation concessions should be made and both, authorities and artisanal loggers, must show understanding to each other. 

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