Do forest-management plans and FSC certification help avoid deforestation in the Congo Basin?
To allow for the production of timber while preserving conservation values, forestry regulations in the Congo Basin have made Forest Management Plans (FMP) mandatory in logging concessions. This paper uses original high-resolution maps of forest-cover changes and official records on the activities of logging concessions to analyze the impact of FMP on deforestation in this region. It applies quasi-experimental and difference-in-difference approaches to evaluate the change in deforestation in concessions managed under an approved FMP. It finds that between 2000 and 2010, deforestation was 74% lower in concessions with an FMP compared to others. Building on a theory of change, further analyses revealed that this decrease in deforestation takes time to occur and is highest around communities located in and nearby logging concessions, and in areas close to previous deforestation. These findings suggest that FMP help avoid deforestation by allowing logging companies to rotate cycles of timber extraction, thereby avoiding the overexploitation of areas that were previously logged, and by the better regulation of access to concessions by closing former logging roads to limit illegal activities such as shifting agriculture, hunting and the illegal harvest of timber or fuel-wood.