Republic of Congo


The Congolese population is estimated at 3,417 million (UNPP World Population Prospects, Review 2008), living on around 342.000 square kilometers with a very low population density of 10 habitants per km2. More than half of the Congolese are living in the six major cities; population density varies greatly between the less inhabited Northern Forest Area and the more occupied and as well more exploited Southern Forest Area.

About 22,5 million hectares of the country are covered by forest representing more than 60% of the national territory or a tenth of the humid forests in Central Africa. More than half of the Congolese forest can be used for timber exploitation. Up to 11% of the Congolese national territory is under protection.

The Congolese forests are divided into three main forest areas: The Chaillu Massif and the Mayombe Massif in Southern Congo and North Congo Massif in the North of the country. The potential of forest resources of both types – non-wood forest products and timber – as well as animal and plant biodiversity is huge in these three areas.

The most exploited non-wood forest products from the Congolese forests are: edible plants (fruits, wild legumes, tubers…), fibers, almonds, medicinal plants, mushroom, honey, bamboo, plants with different use (liana, rattan, leaves of maranthaceae/ arrowroot family), palm leaves, bark etc. These products are used as foods, drinks and medicine and in cultural practices as well as for shelter, hunting, kitchen and other purposes.

Inventories of existing NWFP in the Congolese forest are, in contrast to commercially exploited timber species, very rare and only available for selected geographic areas. Special permissions are needed for commercial exploitation of NWFP but domestic use (subsistence) is governed under the customary user right.

In 2008, a National Strategy and Action Plan for the Development of the Non-Wood Forest Products’ Sector was elaborated and adopted by the Congolese Government with the support of FAO.

Policies and strategies in the Congolese forest sector

Exploitation of timber, the main forest product, is well defined in the forestry law and corresponding regulations, in contrary to other aspects of forest and resource management like NWFP. Since 2000, forest policies and laws have a more holistic understanding of forests as complex ecosystems and sources for diversified income (Law 16-2000 on forestry code) based on international principles for conservation and natural resource management as defined in the Rio Declaration.

The policy framework for the forestry sector is designed to foster the economic and social development of the country based on the sustainable management of forestry resources of plant and animal origin. The main parts of the policy framework as defined in the forestry law 16-2000 are:

  • Sustainable management and use of forests on the basis of a rational forest management planning ensuring the continuation of productive and healthy forests,
  • Optimal valorization of forest products through a higher level of timber transformation adding value on these products within the country,
  • Valorization of non-wood forest products through an improvement of methods for their exploitation, processing and packing,
  • Integration and diversification of industries,
  • Conservation and protection of forest ecosystems and their biodiversity through the establishment and management of interlinked protected areas,
  • Development of silviculture, agro-forestry and community forests,
  • Enhancing national capacities for a sustainable forest management.

The following axes provide the basis for the implementation of the Congolese forest policy:

  • Improve the knowledge about Congolese forest ecosystems,
  • Draw a land use and zoning plan for permanent forest areas,
  • Manage forest areas in a participatory way including all stakeholders concerned by the use of forest resources,
  • Manage the forest ecosystems jointly with other countries in the sub-region,
  • Understand forests as multifaceted ecosystems and take all biological forest resources into account for a sustainable forest management.

Since the 15th of September 2009 and through the decree No. 2009-315 on the nomination of the government members, the ministry in charge of forest changed its name to Ministry of Sustainable Development, Forest Economy and Environment (MDDEFE) and is headed by the Minister Henri DJOMBO.

Sources : Les Forêts du Bassin du Congo – Etat des Forêts 2008. Eds : de Wasseige C., Devers D., de Marcken P., Eba'a Atyi R., Nasi R. et Mayaux Ph., 426 pages, ISBN 978-92-79-132 11-7, doi: 10.2788 /32456, Office des publications de l'Union européenne, 2009.

Données sur les Produits Forestiers Non-Ligneux en République du Congo, ProjetGCP/INT/679/EC, FAO, 1999.


The map shows the forest cover in Congo, divided into two major forest areas, the Northern and the Southern ones. More in-depth information can be found on the FAO country profile site ( and the forest country profile site of FAO’s Forestry Department ( The above cited “The forests in the Congo Basin - State of the Forests 2008” provides a comprehensive overview on the Congolese forest sector and can be found online under

The designations employed and the presentation of material in this publication do not imply the expression of any opinion whatsoever on the part of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations concerning the legal status of any country, territory, city or area or of its authorities, or concerning the delimitation of its frontiers or boundaries.

Map source: Global Forest Resources Assessment 2000, base map: ESRI

The above map is an extract from the Global Forest Cover map produced as part of FRA 2000. Please refer to FRA Working Paper 19 for a background to the production of the map.

last updated:  Tuesday, November 16, 2010