By Kofi Adu Domfeh,
Twenty-seven nations across Africa have now committed to restore 111 million hectares of degraded land as part of the African Forest Landscape Restoration Initiative (AFR100) and the Bonn Challenge – exceeding the 100-million-hectare AFR100 target.
In realizing these commitments, countries will spur climate resilience, economic growth and more.
AFR100 was launched in 2015 in response to the African Union (AU) mandate to bring 100 million hectares of land into restoration by 2030. The initiative is led by the African Union’s NEPAD Agency in partnership with 27 participating countries, 27 technical and 12 financial partners.
Founding partners include NEPAD, the German Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), World Resources Institute (WRI), GIZ, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), and the World Bank.
During the 3rd Annual AFR100 Partners Meeting in Nairobi this August, member country representatives, as well as technical and financial partners supporting implementation, reaffirmed that the initiative is a powerful lever to bring forest landscape restoration to scale.
“It is a testament to the continuing political will to restore landscapes across Africa that the AFR100 partnership has exceeded its 100-million-hectare target in commitments. We must sustain this momentum and move from pledges to implementation. There are already many examples of restoration success underway in African communities from which we can collectively learn, to realize these commitments,” said Wanjira Mathai, Senior Advisor, WRI and Co-Chair, Global Restoration Council.
In the margins of the meeting, two countries pledged to restore a combined 19.6 million hectares of land towards the 100-million-hectare target: Burkina Faso (5 million hectares) and the Republic of Sudan (14.6 million hectares). These pledges follow commitments made by Togo (1.4 million hectares) and Tanzania (5.2 million hectares) in the weeks prior to the meeting.
“Sudan is delighted to be able to commit to restore 14.6 million hectares of degraded land as part of AFR100. Restoration in Sudan will support in the reduction of youth immigration and food security for the poorest communities, as well as help the country to respond to international commitments,” said Ali Hamid Osman, Monitoring and Evaluation Specialist for the Sudan Sustainable Natural Resources Management Project and Sudan’s AFR100 Focal Point.
“The fight against desertification and land degradation is a major challenge for Burkina Faso’s sustainable development and economic vitality. Our 5-million-hectare commitment to the AFR100 Initiative will improve food security and create more robust livelihoods, both of which are conducive to resilient restoration and productive agro-ecosystems.
In our context, special attention and effort should be given to sustainable employment and entrepreneurship for young people and women, to provide economic opportunities through the restoration of our lands and forests,” added Adama Doulkom, Coordinator of the Great Green Wall Initiative for the Sahara and the Sahel, Burkina Faso.
“Indeed, of all the Bonn Challenge’s regional platforms, AFR100 is the most successful, contributing over half of the current global commitment of 170 million hectares. Ideas can only take root if they are owned and while many have contributed to this momentum we must recognize the fundamental role that NEPAD has played in making this an African led and owned initiative, and particularly the inspiring work of Mamadou Diakhite and his team.” stated Stewart Maginnis, Global Director, Nature-based Solutions Group, IUCN.
Restoration is widely understood as a key pathway to meet climate change, desertification, biodiversity and sustainable development goals in Africa, and to secure vital food, water, and energy resources.
“In times of ever-increasing pressure on land, water, and biodiversity, the restoration of degraded forests and lands is more urgent than ever. Bringing back trees into the land offers multiple benefits for sustainable development, the fight against poverty and hunger, for conserving biodiversity and for adaptation to climate change. Restoration is spectacular in that every $1 invested there is the potential for $27-$35 in return.
Seeing communities who restore their land reap a share of their restoration proceeds, is an honour,” said Mamadou Diakhite, Sustainable Land and Water Management (SLWM) Team Leader at the NEPAD Agency, home to the AFR100 Secretariat.
“It was a great success that the Global Landscapes Forum conference in Nairobi took place back-to-back with the third annual AFR100 partners meeting at the end of August there. We have sent a strong signal for the integration of reforestation, restoration and sustainable rural development. The broad concept of landscape restoration provides us with strong ideas in the fight against hunger and poverty through implementing the entire Agenda 2030 – and mainly SDG2 (zero hunger) and SDG15 (life on land),” said Bernhard Worm, Senior Policy Officer at the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ).
Participants of the recent AFR100 meeting also endorsed the motion to have the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) declare a UN Decade of Ecosystem Restoration, first proposed in March 2018 by El Salvador’s Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources – intended to increase the visibility of and resourcing for countries’ restoration efforts.