by Sebastian Mathews
The African Forest Landscape Restoration Initiative (AFR100) is an African Union-led effort to bring 100 million hectares of land in Africa into restoration by 2030.
Dakar, the beautiful coastal capital of Senegal and Africa’s westernmost city, was recently the site of the first AFR100 technical partners meeting, bringing together more than 75 representatives. Here, attendees were updated on the status of Forest Landscape Restoration (FLR), reviewed requests for technical assistance, worked on ways to strengthen their own partnerships and workshopped a more coordinated approach to the implementation of restoration on the continent.
Mamadou Diakhite, Senior Manager for Sustainable Land and Water Management at the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), opened proceedings.
Mr. Diakhite sounded the call for action and emphasized that the focus of restoration activities had to shift to landscape level implementation to achieve new ambitious targets – AFR100’s country membership has increased to 28 countries and their combined restoration commitments have now reached a target of 113 million hectares.
Sebastian Mathews, director of the Global Evergreening Alliance, presented best practices and lessons learnt to massively scale restoration implementation at the landscape level.
Mr. Mathews pointed out that such massive scale restoration depends on at least four key preconditions:
1. Engagement with small scale farmers is critical
He cited Tony Rinaudo, the 2018 Right Livelihoods Award laureate, whose pioneering work in FMNR in Niger led to over 240 million trees being regenerated, transforming the livelihoods of millions of small-scale farmers in that country and across the Sahel and worldwide
2. Partners must genuinely collaborate
The Global Evergreening Alliance (GEA), as one of the world’s largest restoration alliances comprising the world’s leading international NGOs, conservation, and research organizations is an example of successful collaboration to implement restoration projects at scale. Similarly, the Regreening Africa project, an eight-country collaborative project across the Sahel developed by GEA. Funded by the European Union, the project will restore 1 million hectares, directly affecting the lives of 500,000 farmer households.
3. Partners must share data on progress
The Monitoring and Evaluation platform GEA is developing on behalf of its members with ESRI, promises for the first time to provide detailed satellite pictures of the state of restoration globally.
4. The promotion of continental wide coordination
Massive scale restoration requires co-financing and technical support be coordinated at a continental level instead of organizations competing against each other at the country level.
Lively panel discussions allowed representatives to share experiences of collaboration. The panelists included Ms. Irene Ojuok, National Technical Specialist for Environment and Climate Change with World Vision Kenya, based in Nairobi, Kenya, Ms. Lori Pearson, Senior Policy Advisor for Food Security and Climate Change with Catholic Relief Services, based in Baltimore, USA, Dr. Peter Alele, Africa Field Director with the Vital Signs program at Conservation International, based in Nairobi, Kenya, and Mr. Niels Dierckx, Director of Programs at Just Diggit based in Amsterdam, Netherlands.
At a later session Dr Fred Stolle, Deputy Director of WRI’s Forests Program, recommended that technical partners prioritise under-served AFR100 partner countries, and that while he supported increased and faster implementation to meet countries’ targets, levels of support appeared uneven across the continent.
Dr Stolle said that 1.5 billion dollars has been earmarked for restoration. The Restoration Opportunities Assessment Methodology (ROAM), produced by IUCN and WRI has been conducted in 20 countries, and strategies are now being launched, budgets allocated, and work is underway to scale up activities.
He also provided a snapshot of the AFR100 technical partners based on a survey of the attendees. Interestingly, the areas of greatest restoration expertise were in agroforestry and Farmer Managed Natural Regeneration (FMNR) respectively.
The second day saw a more hands-on approach, with the technical partners working with government representatives from Senegal, Ghana, and Cameroon to identify specific needs for technical assistance and to develop solutions.
The conference concluded with a commitment from delegates to continue fostering their collaborative partnerships.