This article is one of a series produced as part of the investigation into the conditions of allocation, exploitation and marketing of logging concessions.
The history of Maï-Ndombe is inseparable from that of SODEFOR. This company, one of the oldest in the sector, is today considered one of the most respectful of the forestry code. However, it has been criticized for not having ensured the development of this province.
Inongo, the capital of Maï-Ndombe, lives to the rhythm of the generators. There is no electricity or running water. Not even a paved road. Yet it is in the heart of the Congo basin. All around, the forest stretches as far as the eye can see. It represents 9.8 million hectares of the 12 million hectares of this province, or more than 6% of the national forest cover.
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The largest and oldest logging company in the Congo, however, has its headquarters some 110 kilometers away in the small town of Nioki. In 1912, King Leopold II created the company Forescom, which enriched it to the point of allowing it to erect the first tower in Kinshasa and even, it is said, in all of sub-Saharan Africa, the Forescom building, which is still well known to the people of Kinshasa today. Mobutu finally nationalized this company in 1974, but it was dissolved 16 years later. Forescom had been partially bought by the NST group to which SODEFOR and FARABOLA belong. The managers of these companies are two brothers, José Albano Maia Trindade and João Manuel Maia Trindade.
According to a study by the Faculty of Agronomic Sciences of the University of Kinshasa, published in 2021, the majority of wood processed by SODEFOR comes from the provinces of Maï-Ndombe (81.10%), Mongala (14.74%) and Tshopo (4.16%). For its finished products in 2020, 79% of the volume of wood was sold locally and 21% delivered for export. The company has two major processing units, one in Nioki in the province of Maï-Ndombe, and the other in Kinshasa, with an annual productivity of about 30,000 m3 and 40,000 m3 respectively under normal conditions, according to an ERAIFT study. The company claims, however, that it has only one active forestry concession in the Maï Ndombe, the other six being conservation concessions.