Corruption and lack of oversight allow illegally logged timber to be traded from Africa’s heartland to the coast of China.
The mukula tree, known as ‘bloodwood,’ decreases
due to overharvesting in east and southern Africa.
China is the main market for mukula wood.
Freddy’s motley crew stands at the start of an international business chain. The trees they carry out of the tropical forests are first transported from landlocked Congo to one of the countries on the coast of Africa — a three-month journey that usually cuts through Zambia to either Tanzania, Namibia, or South Africa — and are ultimately shipped halfway across the globe to the shores of China. In China, the red-tinted timber, also known as “rosewood”, is made into luxurious furniture to be sold all over the country.
Muyeji Freddy talks about his life as a logger at a hunting
ground on the Katanga Plateau, Congo, Aug. 18, 2016.
Freddy’s career in logging began two years ago, when two Chinese men arrived in his village. Before that, he never thought mukula trees were anything special. But the visitors were very interested in the trees, and his father, the village chief, told Freddy to take them into the forest to show them the mukula. It only took a few hours for the Chinese to cut a deal with the chief, and on that day, Freddy and other young men from the village became full-time loggers — the youngest of them was only 15.
A young man and a child in Kiombo Village, where young
men work as mukula tree loggers, Congo, Aug. 20, 2016.
Kiombo, a hamlet of some 200 souls, is little more than a clearing in the bush of Katanga. The village’s biggest structures are three-story-high termite mounds that tower over the thatched-roof huts. Half a year ago, Chinese traders visited Kiombo and paid 76-year-old chief Sapwe Kiombo $50 to allow logging in the area.
Workers from a bloodwood warehouse operated by Chinese
businessmen lift a wood into a truck in Lubumbashi,
Congo, Aug. 22, 2016.
An officer shows records of trucks delivering bloodwood
at a checkpoint in Lubumbashi, Congo, Aug. 18, 2016.
Workers are busy at a warehouse in Zhangjiagang,
Jiangsu province, Oct. 14, 2016.