The DRC has more than 80 million hectares of arable land. The land is characterized by mountainous terraces, plateaus, savannahs, grasslands and mountains. The DRC has more than 1,100 listed minerals and precious metals [1]. It is also the second most important country in the world for tropical peatland carbon stocks. The Congo Basin peatlands cover 145,500 km² - an area larger than England. Healthy peatlands act as carbon sinks, and those of the Congo Basin store the equivalent of nearly 30% of the world’s tropical peatland carbon, or about 20 years of the fossil fuel emissions of the United States of America [2].

Although the DRC has vast hectares of arable land, due to a combination of poor infrastructure, inappropriate policies, and limited access to technical services, most of the DRC's farmers operate on a near subsistence basis and more than half of the rural population is moderately or severely food insecure.

In addition, throughout the country, there are competing demands for access to and control of land: customary land rights of indigenous and local communities compete with infrastructure projects, commercial and industrial scale agriculture, nature conservation and resource exploitation: mining, oil and forestry. In almost all cases, commercial interests trump the rights of indigenous and local communities when it comes to land use allocation [3].

Persistent land issues are a cause of conflict and violence in the country, and any inclusive conservation initiative can only succeed if they are addressed [4].


A major challenge for the land sector in DRC is small-scale artisanal mining. Gold, coltan and diamonds are unsustainably mined from the Okapi Reserve, and Maiko and Kahuzi National Parks with effects on soil and underground pollution. Gold sites can attract hundreds of settlers who depend on bushmeat. This can slowly evolve and result in permanent settlements and the degradation of the integrity of protected areas [5].


Key policies and governance approach

The National Action Programme against Land Degradation and Deforestation (PAN-LCD) (2006) was drawn up in 2005. It is structured around four areas: (i) capacity building of actors in the field of knowledge and control of the degradation process, (ii) permanent monitoring of the land degradation process, (iii) perfect knowledge of ecosystems, improving the productivity of degraded products and protecting threatened ecosystems, and (iv) decentralization and promotion of management participatory natural resources. The PAN was aligned with the ten-year strategy (2008-2018) of the Convention to Combat Desertification [6].

Since 2012, DRC has been engaged in a land reform process to replace the land law currently in force, which dates from 1973 [4]. This reform will in particular ensure a balance between regions and production sectors, to sustainably enhance the multiple natural resources of the country, and to rationalize urban development without neglecting integrated rural development. The land reform has three specific objectives, namely: (i) limit or even eradicate land conflicts and violence from land management; (ii) better protect the land rights of natural and legal persons both public and private with particular attention to vulnerable people (local communities, indigenous populations, women and children); and (iii) stimulate productive investment while respecting environmental and social sustainability [6].


Successes and Remaining Challenges

In DRC, there is a challenge of lack of coordination among local institutions and authorities involved in the implementation of land use plans at the landscape level. At the local level, there is limited availability of land use plans in the DRC. In cases where these land use plans exist (such as in some parts of northern DRC), the legal recognition of these plans, and their incorporation into existing policy frameworks has lagged [2].

A significant proportion of the population accesses land through customary land tenure systems governed by customs and norms that lie outside the formal land administration system. Therefore, customary land tenure systems are not protected by law but guided by local practices and traditions. Due to this duality, local land governance systems are weak and influenced by powerful individuals that at times influence and control access to community land for their own interests. A big proportion of agricultural land has been converted to primary land and formally registered or converted to concessions. As a result, there are many conflicts related to land among the local population especially the poor including women and indigenous people whose land rights are violated. There are no systems to manage local land records for future reference or for the settlement of land disputes [7].


Initiatives and Development Plans

The Land Reform Support Program of UN-Habitat in the DRC has issued 60 local customary land certificates to farmers as part of a pilot experiment in two villages of Mabukulu and Andikwakwa, in the Mambasa territory in the province of Ituri. This pilot project is in line with UN-Habitat’s support to the government of the DRC in providing capacity in the development for good land governance, which also includes the development of a national land policy document and a new land law. The land policy document, currently the subject of extensive multi-stakeholder consultations, emphasizes the necessity for a decentralized land administration as well as embracing the plurality of tenure types and recognizing women and indigenous people’s land rights. This will strengthen the financial, logistical and operational capacity of the land administration offices to manage land by reconciling traditional and modern land tenure systems and strengthening the participation of all stakeholders in implementing appropriate solutions to improve peace, development and economic growth at community level [7].

Congo Basin Sustainable Landscapes Impact Program (CBSL IP) funded by the GEF is set to the tune of 57.2 million USD, with the objective to catalyze transformational change in conservation and sustainable management of the Congo Basin through landscape approaches that empower local communities and forest-dependent people, and through partnerships with the private sector. The initiative contributes to the CBSL’s goal of sustainable management of environmental resources in the Congo Basin, and to its transformational change agenda in terms of land use, and biodiversity conservation.

The EU-funded FORETS project "Formation, Research, Environment in TShopo" led by the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) is designed as a substantial contribution to integrated landscape development and includes the Yangambi Biosphere Reserve in the DRC. The project supports local communities through awareness raising, extension and supervision, and strengthens national human resources, particularly through formal courses at the University of Kisangani. FORETS aims to embrace a range of socioeconomic development opportunities within a landscape of about 400,000 hectares, directly or indirectly affecting a rural and urban population of about 1 million people [8].

In total, about 1,800 jobs have been created by this initiative, 1,200 hectares of land have already been restored and more than 1 million trees have been planted since 2018. A biomass power plant is currently under construction, and it is expected that by 2022 Yangambi will have access to electricity for the first time in decades – a pressing need in a country where 99% of rural households remain off-the-grid [9]


Goals and Ambitions

The Government’s national goal is the plantation of 1 billion trees by 2023 and the restoration of degraded land in rural areas of Democratic Republic of Congo.

  • The DRC is currently working on a land use zoning plan, in order to limit the areas allocated specifically to agricultural activities, and link these to reforestation programs in deforested areas. Training and awareness raising on the impacts of climate on productivity can inform land management strategies.
  • Sustainable and productive land management in DRC can be achieved through improved agroforestry practices, soil conservation measures and land use planning.
  • Promote sustainable agriculture and smart farming practices to minimize land degradation, especially in rural areas of DRC.
  • Document the risks of soil erosion and land degradation at the national level.
  • Promote sustainable mining in the country.

[1] Climate Risk Profile: Congo, Democratic Republic (2021): The World Bank Group

[2] [Online]. Available:

[3] IUCN (2016). Land rights and nature conservation in Democratic Republic of the Congo. [Online]. Available:

[4] [Online]. Available:

[5] Debroux, L., Hart, T., Kaimowitz, D., Karsenty, A. and Topa, G. (Eds.) 2007 Forests in Post Conflict Democratic Republic of Congo: Analysis of a Priority Agenda. A joint report by teams of the World Bank, Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), Centre International de Recherche Agronomique pour le Développement (CIRAD), African Wildlife Foundation (AWF), Conseil National des ONG de Développement du Congo (CNONGD), Conservation International (CI), Groupe de Travail Forêts (GTF), Ligue Nationale des Pygmées du Congo (LINAPYCO), Netherlands Development Organisation (SNV), Réseau des Partenaires pour l’Environnement au Congo (REPEC), Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), Woods Hole Research Center (WHRC), World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) and World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF). xxii, 82p. ISBN 979-24-4665-6


[7] [Online]. Available:

[8] [Online]. Available:

[9] [Online]. Available: