Published on Nasikiliza

Healthy forests for resilient livelihoods: Stepping up to the challenge in Central and Southern Africa

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Des forêts saines pour des vies résilientes : relever le défi en Afrique centrale et australe Des forêts saines pour des vies résilientes : relever le défi en Afrique centrale et australe

The International Day of Forests this month is an opportunity to recognize the vital role played by forests in improving the livelihoods of 400 million Africans who depend on them for food, energy, income, and medicine. Forest-related incomes have had a transformative impact in Africa, lifting 11% of rural households out of extreme poverty.

People’s dependence on forests drives the World Bank’s efforts to promote the sustainable management of these critical swaths of carbon sequestration. In Central and Southern Africa, a variety of programs have helped to transform livelihoods, from the lush tropical forests of the Congo Basin to the Miombo woodlands of Mozambique, to the island forests of Madagascar. 

We support countries as they address drivers of deforestation and forest degradation, the second leading man-made cause of global warming. A focus on forest-smart interventions ensures that the agriculture, transport and energy sectors do not erode forest capital but instead, generate positive outcomes. Our strong engagement with communities, civil society and indigenous peoples helped design initiatives owned and delivered with their support.

In the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), we have mobilized $140 million since 2014 to support reforms and pilot innovations in forest governance, land use planning, and land tenure. With the second-largest rainforest in the world, DRC is a key player in mitigating climate change globally. Under the Improved Forested Landscape Management Project, 17,000 hectares of agroforestry plantations were created; 20,000 hectares are enclosed for natural regeneration; 110,000 people benefitted from an income increase of 18%  and more than six million tCO2eq emission reductions were generated.

Our work in Mozambiqueillustrates the complexity of integrated forest management. The country took bold steps to preserve and ascribe value to its renewable natural resources. Encouraged by this commitment, we designed activities that enhanced the livelihoods of  60,000 people. Conservation agriculture balanced farming for food and for sale.  Educational programs inspired conservation efforts in youth. Land rights have been formalized, prompting access to finance and long-term investments. Communities were  trained on how to reduce their reliance on charcoal production. Women empowered themselves to invest in with the funds received from Credit and Savings clubs.

In Madagascar, our two decades of engagement has helped to build environmental governance through a system of protected areas, strong institutions and transfer of resources management to communities. Our new portfolio goes beyond conservation and promotes tourism, value chains and other economic opportunities that reduce pressures on forests. Preserving these forests is critical as they host 2,300 endemic species directly threatened by deforestation. These forests also form a natural buffer against cyclones, droughts and floods hitting Madagascar three times a year on average.

Across the continent, many other promising initiatives support healthy forests and resilient livelihoods. But the scale of the challenge is enormous as deforestation trends accelerate. According to a study published in Nature, by 2030, African tropical forests will absorb 14% less carbon dioxide than they did 10 to 15 years ago. To better support our clients, we must collaborate across sectors, expand opportunities and scale up initiatives with proven results.

Collaboration across relevant sectors will bring actors to agree on land-use planning; leverage private sector financing; and place communities at the center of the management of natural resources. The World Bank’s Program-for-Results links disbursement to results and could be a useful instrument in this joined actions.

There are opportunities to build sustainable forest sector value chains that create jobs and generate wealth. But this requires a strong governance mechanism to ensure that investments are fully integrated in development decisions and done in a sustainable way.

Innovative financing is needed to scale up the promising approaches and results. Emission Reductions Payment Agreements (ERPA) with the World Bank’s Forest Carbon Partnership Facility have unlocked performance-based payments of up to $50 million in Mozambique and $55 million in DRC. Similarly, growing private investors’ interest in carbon sequestration will expand opportunities for innovative deals.

Africa’s singular forests are the lungs of the continent—and our planet--and their regeneration assures our future. We are committed to increasing and amplifying our efforts in their sustainable management.


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