Ministers from Guinea, the Central African Republic, Côte d’Ivoire, and Ghana have voiced their commitments to restore 11.5 million hectares of degraded forests at a high-level roundtable in Kigali, Rwanda.
The “Africa High-Level Bonn Challenge Roundtable” was convened by the Government of Rwanda, the East African Community (EAC) and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) to build regional cooperation on the Bonn Challenge – a global effort to restore 150 million hectares of deforested and degraded lands by 2020 and 350 million hectares by 2030.
The pledges comprise two million hectares from the Republic of Guinea, 3.5 million hectares from the Central African Republic, five million hectares from Côte d’Ivoire, and an additional one million hectares from Ghana, who had already committed one million hectares. The Republic of Congo also reaffirmed its commitment to restore two million hectares. These new pledges bring the total amount of land committed by countries, companies and organisations for restoration under the Bonn Challenge to over 107 million hectares.
“We recognise the importance of the engagement of the international community for the implementation of the Bonn Challenge in our country,” says Christine Sagno, Minister of Environment, Water Resources and Forestry, Guinea. “Forest landscape restoration will help us achieve our international commitments, particularly to the UNFCCC, the UNCCD and the CBD.”
Along with the Republic of Congo, other national governments in Africa had earlier pledged their support for the Bonn Challenge, totalling 55.3 million hectares for the region. This includes Burundi (two million hectares), Democratic Republic of Congo (8 million hectares), Ethiopia (15 million hectares), Kenya (5.1 million hectares), Niger (3.2 million hectares), Rwanda (two million hectares), Uganda (2.5 million hectares), Liberia (one million hectares), Madagascar (one million hectares) and Mozambique (one million hectares).
“The beauty of the forest landscape restoration approach lies in the immense benefits that flow from these revitalised lands,” says Inger Andersen, IUCN Director General. “We are focussed on a transition to sustainable land use through climate-smart agriculture, agroforestry and silvopasture. IUCN will continue to support countries throughout Africa in this process.”
In addition to contributing to the Sustainable Development Goals, efforts to restore forests contribute to the Paris Agreement on climate change, the Aichi Biodiversity Targets and the Zero Net Land Degradation goal. The roundtable played a key role in highlighting the multiple benefits of forest landscape restoration (FLR) and its potential to help countries tackle poverty, improve food and energy security, and mitigate climate change.
“Côte d’Ivoire recognises that through forest landscape restoration it is possible to reduce the negative effects of climate change in the country while creating opportunities to improve livelihoods from rural communities,” says Zana Inzan Ouattara, Assistant Specialist on REDD+, Côte d’Ivoire.
“The Central African Republic recognises the importance of forest landscape restoration for carbon sequestration, conservation of biodiversity and restoration of degraded forests,” says Vincent Kongo, Director of Cabinet, Central African Republic. “Expertise from IUCN is welcomed through the IUCN FLR Hub in Rwanda.”
Rwanda’s Ministry of Natural Resources (MINIRENA) and the German Ministry of Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety provided support for this event. The roundtable was held in conjunction with a technical workshop on FLR research hosted by the International Union of Forest Research Organizations (IUFRO) and the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).
Driven by political will and regional institutions, a host of high-level processes are emerging to support the Bonn Challenge and FLR. Ministers from Latin America met in El Salvador in August 2015 and are meeting in Panama in August 2016, and an Asia Pacific meeting is slated for February 2017 in South Sumatra, Indonesia. Importantly, multi-country initiatives such as The Restoration Initiative (TRI), supported by the Global Environment Facility (GEF) and led by IUCN in partnership with UNEP and FAO, are catalysing implementation and creating avenues for collaboration.
More Bonn Challenge pledges are expected to be announced at the IUCN World Conservation Congress 2016 taking place in Hawaiʻi from 1 to 10 September.