In Tshopo province, on Sankuru’s northern border, the pandemic made it hard for large, established charcoal producers to supply their markets, according to Jolien Schure, who, along with her colleagues at the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), did a rapid assessment of how COVID-19 affected the charcoal sector centered on Kisangani, a city in Tshopo province.
New producers, finding themselves shut off from other livelihoods, took up charcoal making. Loss of jobs and the closure of schools increased the availability of this mobile work force. It was one of the few ways available to make quick cash.
The pandemic untethered people from their usual work at a time when food and other essentials became more expensive. “They earned less in the same period that consumer prices went up so they really were stuck between a rock and a hard place,” Schure said.