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Fighting Deforestation in the Miombo Woodlands of Southern Africa

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Miombo trees in the Reserva Nacional do Gilé, Zambézia Province. Photo by Andrea Borgarello for the World Bank
The Miombo woodlands is the largest biome of Southern-Central Africa. Covering 2.7 million square kilometers and spanning several countries, it is one of the most important ecosystems in the world. Each year, the Miombo loses over 1.27 million hectares mainly due to shifting cultivation and energy production. The impact of this deforestation is significant. African governments risk losing a long-term source of revenue, while the international community is losing valuable flora and fauna, with global implications for greenhouse gas emissions. As the Miombo continues to shrink, the local residents who depend on the forest for their livelihoods, will bear the brunt of the consequences. In Mozambique, for some families, revenue generated from the Miombo can represent anywhere from 42 to 92% of household income.
The continued social and economic development of the Miombo countries has called the future of the woodlands into question. The current situation is unsustainable.  In order to avoid further environmental degradation, issues such as landscape restoration, climate change adaptation, payment for ecosystem services and Reducing Emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD+), sustainable forest management, and forest governance need to be discussed and acted upon. To meet this challenge, the Miombo Network was relaunched in 2013 to promote knowledge and information sharing among the countries of the Miombo and other international forest conservation organizations. The Network also serves as a platform to update the member countries’ science plans and build capacity for influencing policymakers in their home governments.
This year, I participated in the 2016 Miombo Network workshop, hosted by Mozambique’s University Eduardo Mondlane from July 27 to July 29. Entitled “Restoring Socio-Ecological and Socio-Economic Relationships in the Miombo Woodlands,” the workshop was jointly organized by the World Bank Group (WBG), the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the Global Observation of Forest and Land Cover Dynamics (GOFC-GOLD), the Global Change System for Analysis, Research & Training (START), and The Program on Forests (PROFOR).
The workshop drew over 90 participants from eight African countries—South Africa, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Tanzania, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, and Kenya—as well as from the United States, the United Kingdom, Portugal, Finland, and Brazil. The participants represented a diverse cross-section of governments at the national and subnational level, non-governmental organizations, the private sector, and academia.
Among the highlights of the conference were the insights into climate change and restoration of the Miombo woodlands from keynote speakers Erick Fernandes, Advisor for the Agricultural Global Practice at the WBG, and Mirjam Kuzee, Forest Landscape Restoration Assessment Coordinator at the IUCN. Kuzee presented the Restoration Opportunities Assessment Methodology (ROAM), a framework that assists land managers and policymakers to identify forest restoration opportunities that are politically, socially, economically, and ecologically feasible and desirable. ROAM not only helps countries honor their national and international commitments, it includes a number of components useful for their Forest Landscape Restoration (FLR), for example, on cross-sectoral stakeholder engagement, gender mainstreaming, and identification and development of social incentives.
Workshop participants boiled down the key priorities and challenges of forest sustainability as follows:
  • Political will on the part of government officials is crucial to addressing Miombo’s deforestation.
  • Applied research and strategic communication also have an important role to play to bridge the gap between the data generated on the Miombo and the information that policymakers use to make decisions.
  • The Miombo Network can act as a platform for encouraging more fluid dialogue between researchers and government officials.
  • The Network should prioritize research on the reliance of local populations on forest resources; the monitoring of forest environmental services related to water, carbon, and biodiversity; and the use of remote sensors and models that capture deforestation and land-use dynamics to inform decision-making.
The Network’s steering committee has already met to discuss implementing the workshop’s outcomes, including how to finalize the organization’s science plan with stakeholder input and how to institutionalize its activities further so as to be more proactive in Miombo management and conservation. The network is also discussing how to play a more significant role in promoting regional cooperation in natural resources management in Southern Africa. The Miombo Network hopes to follow the lead of other multinational initiatives such as the Central African Forest Commission (COMIFAC) and the Amazon Cooperation Treaty Organization (OTCA), both of which conduct similar work in the Congo Basin and the Amazon, respectively.
The workshop in Maputo captured the promise and challenges facing the Miombo Network’s efforts. On the one hand, the Network organized an enlightening meeting for regional champions who share the common goals of forest conservation and land restoration. Yet, on the other hand, it is up to each country to apply what was learned to its own context and to build on the partnerships fostered by the Miombo Network. Only then will the solutions discussed in Maputo will reach beyond the three-day workshop.


André Rodrigues de Aquino

Lead Environmental Specialist

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