Tropical Forest Protection, Mai Ndombe

The Mai Ndombe forest protection project is not only about protecting the world's second-largest intact rainforest but also about helping local communities.

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Earthly Mai Ndombe
Earthly Mai ndombe -  Wildlife

Project information

Mai Ndombe

Launched in 2011, this project is found in the heart of DRC in the Congo basin, the second most important rainforest in the world after the Amazon. Run by Wildlife Works, Mai Ndombe is pushing the boundaries of what a REDD+ project can achieve, and is a world-class example.

This project not only reduces forest and biodiversity loss but is providing community prosperity through vital investments into the local area. It has protected 300,000 hectares of vital Bonobo, Pangolin and Forest Elephant habitat as well as some of the most important wetlands in the world around Lake Mai Ndombe. The project supports local people by increasing access to education and vital medical care.

Mai Ndombe location on map


Tropical forest protection


Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)





Sustainable Goals

  • no poverty
  • zero hunger
  • good health
  • quality education
  • gender equality
  • clean water
  • clean energy
  • economic growth
  • infrastructure
  • reduced inequality
  • sustainable cities
  • responsible consumption
  • climate action
  • life below water
  • life on land
  • peace justice
  • partnerships

Project performance

The Earthly rating

The Earthly rating is the industry-first holistic project assessment. Earthly researchers analyse 106 data points, aggregating information across the three vital pillars of carbon, biodiversity and people. Projects in Earthly's marketplace all exceed a minimum score of 5/10.

Mai Ndombe


Tonnes of CO2e prevented from being released



Critically Endangered or Endangered species protected



People with improved healthcare

Project impact

Local impact

Mai Ndombe project over time

The image illustrates the extent of deforestation/ forest loss in and near the designated project zone since 2001. The project area is indicated by the white outline. Dataset used: Hansen Global Forest Change (2005-2021) modified

Project area: through time

In a country grappling with severe environmental degradation, the Mai Ndombe project area stands as a crucial intervention against the backdrop of rampant deforestation and ecological decline. Historically, the region was heavily impacted by logging companies, which not only devastated the environment but also disregarded the rights and well-being of local communities and wildlife. This unchecked logging activity pushed already-threatened wildlife populations to the brink and provided minimal economic benefits to the indigenous people.

Satellite imagery analysis of the area reveals a nuanced picture of deforestation trends. While deforestation is evident both before and after the project's start, the majority of this activity is occurring outside the project's delineated boundary. This pattern suggests that the project is effectively shielding its designated forest area from potential deforestation. Within the project's confines, the observed deforestation is largely attributed to the construction of infrastructure, such as roads, indicating a balancing act between development and conservation efforts. This evidence points towards the project's success in mitigating environmental degradation within its jurisdiction, marking a positive step towards sustainable ecological stewardship.

Positive for People

This project not only benefits the environment but also the local community, supporting five of the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

Goal 3: Good Health and Wellbeing. This goal has seen significant progress through the introduction of a mobile medical clinic, benefitting over 16,000 individuals by providing essential healthcare services previously unavailable to them. This initiative has been carried out in partnership with national and regional health authorities and NGOs, focusing on enhancing healthcare services and medicine distribution in the region. Notably, the establishment and replenishment of a mobile clinic in Ibali were crucial steps taken to combat the high maternal mortality rates in the area. Additionally, plans are underway to renovate and expand the Lokanga secondary hospital.

Since its establishment, the mobile clinic has been a key component of the project’s efforts, developed in collaboration with the Territory Health Commissioner and conducted biannually, including during the COVID-19 pandemic. The region has faced outbreaks of Measles and Rubella, largely due to inadequate vaccination coverage among children, with a significant outbreak occurring in 2019 affecting several villages such as Mpata Mbalu, Kesenge, Ibali, Mbale, Lokanga, and Nsongo. The mobile clinic played a pivotal role in these instances, deploying to the affected villages to enhance vaccination efforts and curb the spread of diseases to other areas. Fortunately, no outbreaks occurred during the fourth monitoring.

Goal 4: Quality Education. This goal focuses on enhancing education through strategic school design and construction, marking it as the Mai Ndombe project’s most ambitious and financially demanding initiative. This multiyear effort has seen substantial progress since its inception in 2011, with the completion or renovation of multiple school buildings within the project area. As a result, over 8,200 students were able to enjoy improved access to and quality of education.

During the fourth monitoring phase, the project achieved a significant milestone by constructing 9 new school buildings across seven different villages, enhancing educational infrastructure in both the general project zone and specific communities including Nsongo, Ikita, Bokebene, Inunu, Ilee, Lobeke, and Mankaba. Notably, the school in Lobeke has been fully completed.

Goal 8: Decent Work and Economic Growth. In total the project employed over 380 local people providing training and new career opportunities within the project area. Agriculture and fisheries are a vital source of income within the area, therefore the project has helped develop programmes supporting agricultural intensification in areas of degraded land. This not only addresses deforestation but also provides a secure income.

The information provided here is derived from the 2022 Monitoring and Implementation Report (M4).

Great for Earth

A REDD+ project stands for Reduce Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation. The idea is that by placing a price on a natural asset in this case the rainforest countries will take greater measures to protect it thereby reducing forest loss, increasing conservation management and increasing GHG removal.

The project began after the national government took control of timber extraction within the area. Out of 156 logging contracts that were held 91 were suspended (Wildlife Works). After the moratorium was lifted the government began to reissue concession rights, however Wildlife Works helped to convince the ministry that the area was of much more value when considered to be of conservation importance. The sale of credits therefore goes towards not only protecting the rainforest but also sustainable development within the area.

As reported in 2022, the project has reduced 41,230,177 tCO2. This is because the project ensures the protection of the rainforest from its largest threat – logging. The project has so far prevented almost 300,000 hectares of rainforest from being destroyed.

The project is situated by Lake Mai Ndombe in the Congo Basin, it is home to 20 Bonobos and 30 Forest Elephants (reported at the beginning of 2020) and since the project began in 2011 these numbers have been increasing. The project conducts extensive biodiversity monitoring, with teams conducting monitoring within the project area twice a month. The team also works with local villagers to discuss any poaching reported within the area.

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Earthly Mai ndombe -  Wildlife
Earthly Mai ndombe -  Wildlife
Earthly Mai Ndombe
Photo from Mai Ndombe forest protection project