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What forests can now do for Africa

Idah Z. Pswarayi-Riddihough's picture

One of the concrete things to come out of Cancun was the agreement on REDD+ or Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation. The "+" includes the role of conservation, sustainable management of forests and enhancement of forest carbon stocks. The decision in Cancun establishes a framework for rich countries to pay for preventing deforestation in developing countries. While the details are yet to be worked out, the setting up of the mechanism itself was a big step.

 

REDD+ is clearly one of the 'winners’ from Cancun. It is an important development for Africa, where a critical piece of the climate change puzzle lies in preserving and managing its forests well. Although Africa currently contributes only a small amount to global greenhouse gases, the main source of the continent's emissions is deforestation.

 

Over the years we have been engaged in many forest management projects across the continent.  The World Bank has been working with several countries to pilot approaches in sustainable forestry that have provided valuable lessons for the REDD+ mechanism being set up now. During Forest Day in Cancun, many of us discussed how to make the most out of REDD+, and how to ensure that the lessons learned from the Forest Investment Program (FIP) activities in Burkina Faso, Democratic Republic of Congo, and Ghana can help Africans get more value out of conserving forests than chopping them down. This approach is critical, given Africa's development needs and growth in population. How do we create REDD+ partnerships that bring real value and payments for conservation? How do we ensure the playing field is level for all countries and players in REDD+? Answering these questions will be key to fostering an integrated mitigation and adaptation approach to Africa's forests.

 

I am happy to note that the agreement in Cancun includes safeguards for indigenous people. In Africa, there are many such groups for whom forests are their livelihood. Advancing the REDD+ agenda will require a shared understanding and commitment to sustainable forest management. It will also require that we answer the forest communities' question "What's in it for me?" when it comes to tough decisions about conservation.

 

In Africa, it's important that we have answers to the questions of food security and how better forest management can actually help improve food security. We will need to address sustainable income generation and help create new small-scale sustainable industries in and around the forests. And we will need to do this working hand-in-hand with our partners in government, the private sector, other multilateral development banks, and civil society.

 

Many African countries are already taking serious action to conserve forests. For example, the Humbo Community-Based Natural Regeneration Project in Ethiopia will restore almost 3,000 hectares of bio-diverse native natural forest, providing about US$725,000 in carbon financing. One of the key lessons from the Humbo project is the social and economic co-benefits that came along with the carbon credits. While the community benefitted from the sale of these credits, the real benefit has come from poverty alleviation and restoration of biodiversity. Projects like this make me increasingly hopeful about the potential of forests and of REDD+.

 

I am optimistic as there seems to be a clear recognition that forests are critical. In the World Bank Africa Region, we are ready to support sustainable forest management on a much larger scale. When and if new REDD+ funding is available to countries and efficient financing procedures are established for REDD+, I anticipate that many countries in Africa will be seeking new partnerships on sustainable forest management. When we begin making results-based payments for REDD+ and tracking emission reductions I think we will see REDD+ take off. In Cancun I've seen colleagues from all over Africa aim high and think big — and this is what's needed when we think about the enormous potential of Africa's forests to trap carbon and mitigate climate change.
 

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