Understanding patterns of deforestation in the Democratic Republic of Congo

Working with our Partner: Working Partner
Rates of deforestation in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) are some of the highest in the world. But, in areas where local communities manage the land, these rates are significantly lower. This project aims to achieve a long-term decrease in deforestation by tracking and collating data from community-managed forests and to gain a better understanding of how this model can be improved and expanded throughout the Congo Basin.

The Challenge

The Congo Basin is the world’s second-largest tropical forest after the Amazon, covering a vast area of over 178 million hectares – more than 7 times the size of the United Kingdom. It is home to 50 million people and sits across six African countries, though the majority of it lies within the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The Congo Basin is crucially important for tackling the climate crisis, because of its ability to absorb the excess human-made carbon emissions which are driving climate change.

Deforestation in the DRC is happening at an alarming rate. According to the World Resources Institute, in 2020 alone over 490,000 hectares of forest was destroyed – about a quarter the size of Wales! Small-scale farmers have been accused of being responsible for majority of deforestation through the clearing of forested land for short-term farming and charcoal production. However, this narrative is not backed up by evidence.

There is a growing body of research which shows that other land uses, such as ‘selective’ logging, industrial farming, and large-scale developments, are being significantly downplayed in their impact on deforestation. An analysis of 57 community forest plots in DRC, carried out by Rainforest Foundation UK (RFUK), showed that forest loss was 46% lower in community-managed forests than in logging concessions, and 23% lower than the national average in 2019.

However, common misconceptions on the drivers of deforestation has led to policies that negatively impact local people like smallholder farmers and indigenous communities. This has even led to forced evictions of communities from their traditional lands in the name of forest conservation.

Project Aims

This project aims to monitor and track the environmental impacts of community-managed forests in comparison to other land uses, such as large-scale farming and logging.

To do this, RFUK in partnership with local NGOs, will support Indigenous and local communities to collectively own and manage their traditional forests, whilst tracking and collating data on deforestation rates within and outside of them.

This systematic monitoring will provide insights into good practice and successful models of community forestry, which can be upscaled and rolled out throughout the DRC.

The data gathered by the project will also be shared with the communities and used to inform and improve their land use planning and community management. In turn, this will strengthen governance structures, reduce deforestation, provide livelihood opportunities, and secure greater land rights for local peoples overall.


This video shows the work of the wider DRC programme, of which community forestry is part.

Partner Profile

At Rainforest Foundation UK (RFUK), we tackle deforestation locally and globally. Locally, we help forest communities to gain land rights, challenge logging companies, manage their forests and protect their environment. Globally, we campaign to influence national and international laws to protect rainforests and their inhabitants.

We believe that the best way to protect the rainforest is through empowering indigenous peoples to defend their ancestral lands.