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Zaire Table of Contents

Zaire

Environmental Trends

In the last decade, Africa's rain forests have been destroyed at a faster rate than anywhere else in the world, including the well-publicized Amazon region in South America; Nigeria, for example, is now 90 percent deforested. Environmental degradation has been less of a problem in Zaire than elsewhere in sub-Saharan Africa. Nevertheless, although still 86 percent intact in the early 1990s, Zaire's vast forests will be increasingly at risk. A major threat has been the signing of contracts with foreign logging corporations. Some 37 percent of the total exploitable area of Zaire's rain forest has already been designated as timber concessions.

The most intense logging to date has been in Bas-Za´re Region in the hinterlands of the capital of Kinshasa. Logging itself disrupts the forest ecology; worse, logging roads carved out of forest to export felled timer have become avenues for immigration into the forest by poor farmers who clear and burn more forest for fields. In 1993 one analyst reported that there was virtually no primary rain forest left in Bas-Za´re.

In the east, the appropriation of land for ranching and plantations in the Kivu highlands has simultaneously reduced forest hectarage and increased the intensity of use of the remaining land by the existing population. The Ituri Forest of northeastern Zaire has also experienced substantial recent immigration by growing populations in need of fertile soil for their crops. Extensive forest destruction has been reported as a consequence.

Data as of December 1993