As DRC moves from REDD+ readiness to implementation, analysis of the causes of deforestation at the local level is paramount. The present study contributes to this by assessing both proximate and underlying causes of deforestation in two REDD+ pilots of the Équateur province. The study found that agricultural expansion through shifting cultivation is the main proximate cause of deforestation. This activity is accelerated by logging that simplifies clearing of land. Logging also contributes to the total biomass loss from the forest. Shifting cultivation is driven by the poverty conditions of the study area. Poverty is also linked to the political and institutional structures of forest governance. These structures are controlled by political elites who influence local decisions to clear forests. While actions to curb deforestation might be challenging, this study suggests that addressing the underlying causes through effective land use planning and developing robust accountable institutions while providing alternative economic opportunities to the local population are necessary.
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