Congo Republic wants $2.6 billion to replant forest

BRAZZAVILLE (Reuters) - Congo Republic Friday said it wanted to raise $2.6 billion to restock part of the world’s second largest forest, as part of its fight against uncontrolled logging and global warming.

The government said it planned to replant trees and set up regulated plantations in 1 million hectares of forest land over the next 10 years and was looking for donors and investors to foot most of the bill.

The Congo Basin holds the world’s second largest forest behind the Amazon, and experts say its preservation is a vital part of the fight against climate change.

Congo’s forest covers roughly 22 million hectares, or about two-thirds of the country’s surface, but is shrinking, largely because of logging and the unlawful felling of trees by villagers seeking wood for fuel.

“This is our most important project and it will revolutionize Congo’s forestry policy,” said Congo’s minister of economy for forestry Henri Djombo at a press conference announcing the plan. Forestry is Congo’s second largest industry behind oil.

He said that some private investors had already expressed interest in the project, but declined to name them.

Congo’s program would replant trees and set up private and government-run plantations producing wood, fuel, honey, palm oil and other products, the government said.

Congo plans to contribute nearly $432 million to the project with the rest coming from donors and investors.

Writing by Richard Valdmanis