PARIS, Dec. 6, 2015 | Ten African countries have signed the dotted lines to replenish their continent’s ecosystem. How? They’ve launched a pan-African initiative to restore 100 million hectares of forest by 2030. (That land-mass figure translates to 386,000 square miles.) This continent-wide global climate agreement, for the moment, targets at least 31.7 million hectares of degraded or deforested woodlands.
That latter number may increase if more African countries join in, according to a climate change conference in Paris this past weekend. Togo, Malawi, Kenya, and Madagascar have agreed to be part of the project but are still deciding how many hectares to restore. Other countries have promised to better conserve their forests or use better farming practices.
Forests, which cover a third of the land on earth, are an often under-appreciated resource for helping to address climate change, ease poverty and secure a sustainable future.
Forest landscape restoration was identified as a key ingredient of this “global movement” driven by the Global Landscapes Forum at the Conference of Parties (COP21) in Paris. The goal is to adapt to and mitigate climate change. Officially named AFR100 (African Forest Landscape Restoration Initiative), the program has earmarked more than $1 billion USD in development finance and more than $540 million in private sector impact investment to support restoration activities.
“Restoring our landscapes brings prosperity, security and opportunity,” said Dr. Vincent Biruta, Minister of Natural Resources in Rwanda. “With forest landscape restoration we’ve seen agricultural yields rise and farmers in our rural communities diversify their livelihoods and improve their well-being. Forest landscape restoration is not just an environmental strategy, it is an economic and social development strategy as well.”
AFR100 recognizes the benefits that forests and trees can provide in African landscapes: improved soil fertility and food security, greater availability and quality of water resources, reduced desertification, increased biodiversity, green jobs, economic growth, and increased capacity for climate change resilience and mitigation.
Forest landscape restoration has the potential to improve livelihoods, especially for women. For example, 20 years ago, women in southern Niger spent an average of 2.5 hours daily collecting firewood, which was scarce in the degraded landscape. Now they prune on-farm trees saving two hours a day, time that can be spent on other income generating activities.
The ambitious project brings together 9 financial partners and 10 technical assistance providers — a pledge of support, led by the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD Agency), Germany’s Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), and the World Resources Institute (WRI).
“The scale of these new restoration commitments is unprecedented,” said Wanjira Mathai, Chair of the Green Belt Movement and daughter of Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Wangari Maathai. “I have seen restoration in communities both large and small across Africa, but the promise of a continent-wide movement is truly inspiring. Restoring landscapes will empower and enrich rural communities while providing downstream benefits to those in cities. Everybody wins.”
The following countries have committed 31.7 million hectares to the AFR100 initiative:
Democratic Republic of Congo: 8 million hectare
Ethiopia: 15 million hectares
Kenya: committed, but finalizing hectare target
Liberia: 1 million hectares
Madagascar: committed, but finalizing hectare target
Malawi: committed, but finalizing hectare target
Niger: 3.2 million hectares
Rwanda: 2 million hectares
Togo: committed, but finalizing hectare target
Uganda: 2.5 million hectares.
AFR100 builds on the climate commitments made by African countries. So far, 13 of the INDCs (Intended Nationally Determined Contributions) submitted by African countries include restoration, conservation of standing forests, or “climate-smart” agriculture. According to WRI analysis, following through on the commitments would cumulatively reduce emissions by 1.2 Gt CO2eq over the next 10 years, or 36 percent of Africa’s annual emissions and 0.25 percent of global emissions.
“Restoration is really Africa’s gift to the world,” said Dr. Andrew Steer, president and CEO, World Resources Institute. “As the world forges a climate agreement in Paris, African countries— which bear the least historic responsibility for climate change — are showing leadership with ambitious pledges to restore land. These countries are well on their way to meet the goal of restoring 100 million hectares of land, which will help sequester carbon and bring economic benefits to low-income, rural communities.”
These African leaders have already begun to address to the global threat of climate change. In Ethiopia’s Tigray region, local communities have already restored over 1 million hectares, making the land more drought-resistant.
In Niger, farmers have increased the number of on-farm trees across 5 million hectares of agricultural landscapes, improving food security for 2.5 million people.
“We know that restoration works for Africa. We’ve seen it work in countries as diverse as Malawi, Ethiopia, and Mali,” said Dr. Ibrahim Assane Mayaki, CEO of NEPAD and former Prime Minister of Niger. “But we need to scale up restoration across the whole continent- more than 700 million hectares of land in Africa have potential for restoration. AFR100 provides a platform to work together more effectively to accelerate the achievement of restoration successes to benefit tens of millions of people who are currently searching for ways to adapt to climate change and improve their well-being.”
DIG DEEPER INTO AFRICA’S CLIMATE CHANGE PROJECT
For more information, visit www.AFR100.org.
(Paris) James Anderson, WRI, firstname.lastname@example.org; +1 (507) 301-2385
(Washington) Lauren Zelin, WRI, email@example.com; +1 (202) 729-7736
(Paris) Mamadou Diakhite, NEPAD, firstname.lastname@example.org
(Berlin) BMZ, email@example.com, +49 (30) 18 535 2452