Launched during the 2015 United Nations General Assembly, the Central African Forest Initiative (CAFI) is a collaborative partnership that gathers the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the World Bank, six Central African partner countries and a coalition of donors. It aims to support governments in the region to implement reforms and enhance investments to halt drivers of tropical deforestation. Focusing on Central African high-forest cover countries, the Initiative supports country-level efforts for reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation and the role of conservation, sustainable management of forests and enhancement of forest carbon stocks (REDD+) and low emission development investments to mitigate climate change and reduce poverty. The six partner countries are the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), the Republic of Cameroon, the Republic of Congo, the Republic of Equatorial Guinea, and the Republic of Gabon.

CAFI’s objectives are to catalyse high-level policy dialogue and scaled-up funding to support ambitious reforms and on the ground action to reduce forest-related emissions and poverty. Furthermore, the Initiative aims to recognise and preserve the value of the forests in the Central African region to mitigate climate change, reduce poverty and contribute to sustainable development. The CAFI programming cycle for eligible countries to access CAFI funding is composed of four phases and is described as follows: “Partner countries develop and present their national investment frameworks addressing all drivers of deforestation and forest degradation; Following a review of the national investment framework, the CAFI Executive Board agrees to support certain policy reforms and large scale programmes; Through a Letter of Intent, the CAFI Executive Board and the partner country government, represented by a government institution with inter-ministerial coordination mandate, agree on time-bound targets in policy reform and programmatic performance and the corresponding financial support by CAFI if jointly defined milestones are met and Partner countries develop and implement programmes to achieve the milestones in the Letter of Intent with the support of implementing organisations”. On November 2, 2021, President Félix Tshisekedi of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Prime Minister Boris Johnson of the United Kingdom on behalf of CAFI endorsed an ambitious 10-year agreement (2021-31) to protect the Congo Basin rainforest – the world’s second-largest. An allocation of up to 500 million USD from the CAFI Trust Fund was approved to support the implementation of the Letter of Intent.
“With its forests, water and mineral resources, the Democratic Republic of Congo is a genuine “Solution Country” to the climate crisis. To protect our forest and promote its sustainable management, our priority, backed by this new partnership, is to strengthen governance and transparency across all land-use sectors. The Partnership will also support our ambition to respond to the dual challenge of food security and climate change through sustainable agriculture, primarily in the savannahs”, said Président Tshisekedi.

All sectors of the DRC’s economy have joined in this landmark agreement to undertake actions that could change land-use practices that date back millennia. These concerted efforts are essential in a country the size of Western Europe with one of the lowest human development indices in the world, and that loses nearly half a million hectares of forest every year.

Through this new multi-year partnership, the DRC aims to first cap forest cover loss at its 2014-2018 average and ensure that deforestation continues to decline. The partnership will also promote the regeneration of 8 million hectares of degraded land and forests, and place 30% of national areas under protection status, including areas where local communities undertake efforts to manage forests sustainably.

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