In the depths of the second-largest rainforest on the planet, an Indigenous community is waging a fight against industrial giants that are destroying their ancestral forest. And in a historic first, they are winning. The Indigenous people of Lokolama became the first community to get a forest concession from the government of Congo DRC six months ago. The government is set to allocate 50 communal forest concessions by 2023. Community leader Joseph Bonkile has seen timber companies exploit the rain forest for decades while his community has grown poorer with time. Now they now own 11,000 acres of forest and will manage it following their traditions. Among the plans they have for it is to replant trees where caterpillars live, as these are traditional parts of their diet and other medicinal plants.
The Wamba forest is part of the Congo Basin, a richly biodiverse area containing 600 types of trees. Recently the largest peatland complex on the planet was discovered close to the Lokolama village. The peatland captures carbon and slows global warming. But logging and deforestation are rampant, under the government of Joseph Kabila more than one hundred square kilometers were given to timber companies. The new President, Felix Tshisekedi, has not decided if controversial concessions on hold will be awarded to oil companies. Independent reports suggest that some of these companies regularly break the country’s Forest Code, cutting more trees than they are allowed, falsifying log marks and paperwork and cutting down protected species. Global Witness says a large percentage of the Congolese timber is in fact “illegal timber”.
50 kilometers from Lokolama, the Bakri Bois Corporation has a controversial operation, that according to Green Peace has shipped illegal wood to Europe. We will follow large barges with giant logs as they descend the legendary Congo river from the colonial port of Mbandaka to the port of Matadi at the gateway to the Atlantic. We will show how a corrupt system has created loopholes for endangered trees to be exported without permission.