The domestic market for small-scale chainsaw milling in the Democratic Republic of Congo: Present situation, opportunities and challenges

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Besides the business enterprises in Bandundu province that use small-scale logging permits (PCAs) illegally, there is a national artisanal sector composed of individual chainsaw millers who supply the domestic market and certain neighbouring countries. This sector is still essentially informal. Our year-long monitoring of markets and transiting points for chainsaw timber brought out the substantial development of this activity over the last 15 years. At present more than a million cubic meters of chainsaw timber are produced in DRC every year, of which 85% is to meet the national demand. The production in Roundwood Equivalents of chainsaw timber - estimated at 3.4 million cubic metres per annum - is 13 times higher than the total formal production of wood products in DRC. The domestic markets of Kinshasa and eastern DRC generate sales of over 100 millions US dollars per year and yield profits estimated at 25 million dollars. The local populations benefit most from chainsaw milling and receive close to 50 million US dollars per year. As for job creation, the rural and urban artisanal timber production sectors combined offered at least 25 000 direct jobs in the country. Small-scale chainsaw milling focuses on five species - but different ones in different provinces - and on large diameter trees. The small number of species exploited by each chainsaw miller probably does not endanger the forest, although it can contribute to decreasing the economic value of the massif by degrading the forestland and making the scarce noble species even more scarce. Because of its physical and economic scope, the small-scale chainsaw milling sector is essential, if DRC forest resources are to be sustainably managed and legally exploited. There are four lines of action to improve and secure the functioning of this sector: (1) in the short term, improve the implementation of the regulations by first of all changing the behaviour of the actors; (2) propose multifacet support for the small-scale operators working legally; (3) optimise the timber of legal origin on the national markets; (4) amend the legal and regulatory framework. These four strategic lines of action are broken down into technical and political options.

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