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Exporting Corruption

Data - Exporting Corruption

Uniting communities to safeguard forests

A lawyer is helping a group of Pygmies understand forest regulations.

Illustration: Magdalena Michalka © Transparency International

When RPDH (Transparency International in Congo) arrived in Komono to help the community design and monitor UN forest protection projects, we found Bantu and Pygmy residents driven apart by logging. The timber industry was putting pressure on land, but bringing neither income nor development to the community. Discrimination means that Pygmy people earn lower wages than the Bantu, so timber companies employ them as cheap labour. This fueled jealousy among Bantu residents, who began to intimidate the Pygmies, bribing the village chief to evict them from traditional land where for many decades they had grown produce for market.

Komono’s residents needed to unite to protect their forest, so RPDH arranged a community meeting. We explained that the Pygmies' right to make a living was being violated, and we would help them bring a lawsuit against the Bantu unless the land was returned. The community agreed to restore the Pygmies’ land and allocate plots elsewhere to the Bantu.

With support from RPDH, Komono residents are now working together for better relations with logging companies, and better protection of their forests.