Forests are an integral part of the eco-system and play a major role in the fight against climate change. According to the United Nations, protection and enhancing the world’s forests is one of the most cost-effective forms of climate action. Forests act as carbon sinks, absorbing roughly 2 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide each year. Sustainable forest management can build resilience and help mitigate and adapt to climate change. Goal 15 of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) calls to protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss. Non-Aligned Movement has also called on the Member States to conserve and manage their biological resources including all types of forests on a sustainable basis.
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. The African Forest Landscape Renovation Initiative (AFR 100) is a prominent initiative for forest conservation. AFR100 was launched in December 2015, during the Global Landscapes Forum at the COP21 in Paris by representatives of participating African countries. Prior to the launch, informal consultations with African technical staff working on Forest Landscape Restoration (FLR) were held at the World Forestry Congress in September 2015 in Durban, South Africa. The African Union Specialized Technical Committee within the Department of Rural Development, Environment and Agriculture (DREA) endorsed the 100 million hectares goal in October 2015 through the African Resilient Landscapes Initiative (ARLI).
AFR100 is a country-led effort to bring 100 million hectares of land in Africa into restoration by 2030. African ownership, country-level drive and grassroots mobilization are key elements to the success, leadership, identity and sustained impacts of AFR100. AFR100 provides a platform for communication and exchange, as well as technical support, which aims to: 1) Inspire ambitious commitments to restoration in African countries; 2) Enable better regional and global coordination; 3) Provide services to develop national FLR strategies; 4) Support development of in-country partnerships and 5) Facilitate peer-to-peer learning exchanges.
In October 2018, 27 African nations committed to restore 111 million hectares of degraded land as part of AFR 100 initiative exceeding the 100- million-hectare AFR100 target.
African countries are actively undertaking reforestation and tree plantation initiatives for the realisation of the objectives of AFR 100. Senegal has taken a number of measures to fight illegal logging such as revising the forest code to toughen penalties; strengthening forestry staff; employing the Senegalese army; developing a project on the Sustainable Management of Coastal and Estuarine Ecosystems; organizing press tours; and creating the Senegalese Reforestation Agency.
In Nigeria, Department of Drought and Desertification Amelioration of the Federal Ministry of Environment and other agencies of Nigeria, which joined AFR100 in 2017, are working closely to combat the twin environmental challenges of drought and desertification through forest landscape restoration. Nigeria has already brought an additional 900 hectares of land into restoration and intends to expand its restoration efforts. In Malawi, the government has revised the Malawi Youth Forest Restoration Program. This programme is entirely funded through Malawi’s domestic budget, making the country one of the first in the world to use its tax money to fund forest landscape restoration.
Malawi Youth Forest Restoration Program recognises that a sustainable future lies in the hands of the country’s youth, who need a bold demonstration of the value of forests. Under the new initiative, the Department of Forestry will work with the Ministry of Labour, Youth and Manpower Development to set up youth groups across the country. The young people will receive a daily wage for planting trees and, later on, the program will introduce bonuses based on how many trees survive and how much forest management improves.
Malawi also launched a National Forest Landscape strategy which aims to achieve at least 10% tree cover on 50% of cropland in Malawi by 2020 and 80% of cropland by 2030, improve protection and management of 2 million ha of natural forest, restore 500,000 ha of degraded forest, and establish 100,000 ha of commercial plantations by 2030.