Thursday, December 10, 2015

The Re-Greening of the African Continent: How African Leaders Came Together to Save the Planet

by Nomad

African leaders recently announced a new regional initiative to tackle one of the world's more important environmental threats.

During the recent Climate Summit 2015 in Paris, leaders from ten African nations came together to launch an initiative aimed at restoring 100 million hectares or about 400 thousand square miles of degraded or deforested land.

Countries that have agreed to join the AFR100 initiative include:

• Democratic Republic of Congo | 8 million hectares
• Ethiopia | 15 million hectares
• Kenya | Committed, but finalizing hectare target
• Liberia | 1 million hectares
• Madagascar | Committed, but finalizing hectare target
• Malawi | Committed, but finalizing hectare target
• Niger | 3.2 million hectares
• Rwanda | 2 million hectares
• Togo | Committed, but finalizing hectare target
• Uganda | 2.5 million hectares

The project, AFR100 (African Forest Landscape Restoration Initiative) has been endorsed by the African Union and its promoters hope to reach this goal by 2030.  

One billion dollars in development finance and more than $540 million in private sector impact investment has been earmarked to support the restoration.
The announcement was made during the Global Landscapes Forum at the Conference of Parties (COP21) in Paris, where forest landscape restoration is a key ingredient of the global movement to adapt to and mitigate climate change. Commitments made through AFR100 build on significant climate pledges made by many African countries to support a binding global climate agreement.
The threat is immense, endangering not merely people and wildlife in the region, but the entire planet.

While AFR100 is certainly a step in the right direction, the full scale of the problem of deforestation is hard to comprehend.
Throughout the world, an estimated 7.3 million hectares of forest, (which is roughly the size of the country of Panama) are lost each year, according to the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)

According to information provided by the World Resources Institute, the planet has already lost about 80 percent of its forests. The West Africa region, which was once home to lush tropical forests in the 19th century, has been stripped of close to 90 percent of its jungles over the last 100 years.

The chief cause of this destruction is agriculture, both subsistence and commercial. According to statistic compiled by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC),  subsistence farming accounts for 46 percent of the total deforestation in the world, commercial agriculture is responsible for 32 percent. Commercial logging operations account for another 14 percent and wood for fuel another 5 percent.

It's no exaggeration to say that deforestation, as  one of the contributing factors to global climate change, is a form of planeticide. National Geographic reminds us that 70% of the world’s plants and animals live in forests and a loss of this habitats spells extinction for species that haven't even been discovered.

In addition, poverty causes deforestation are unquestionably linked. Researchers have long debated the exact cause-effect relationship: does poverty cause the destruction of forests or does deforestation cause poverty. Or is it a cyclical trap?

Here's one example. In sub-Saharan Africa, 589 million people live without electricity. As a result, a staggering 80 percent of the population relies on biomass products such as wood, charcoal, and dung in order to cook. Without intensive infrastructural development, there can be no hope of resolving poverty or the damage to the environment.

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) underscores the idea that one cannot be tackled without addressing the other.
Poverty is one of the greatest threats to the envorinment. In poor countries, poverty often causes deforestation.. And this environmental damage reinforces poverty. Many choices that degrade the environment are made in the developing countries because of the imperative of immediate survival, not because of a lack of concern for the future. And plans of action for environental improvement must therefore inclued programs to reduce poverty.
Despite the fact that worldwide poverty rates have declined sharply, in African countries the percentage has barely fallen. Africa is the world's poorest continent, with more than 40% of people living in sub-Saharan Africa live in absolute poverty. 

A Gift to the World
At the announcement of the AFR100 project, there was much applause. Dr. Vincent Biruta, Minister of Natural Resources in Rwanda, made the connection between reforestation and the economic well-being of the population.
"With forest landscape restoration we’ve seen agricultural yields rise and farmers in our rural communities diversify their livelihoods and improve their well-being. Forest landscape restoration is not just an environmental strategy, it is an economic and social development strategy as well.”
Wanjira Mathai, Chair of the Green Belt Movement and daughter of Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Wangari Maathai, said
“The scale of these new restoration commitments is unprecedented. I have seen restoration in communities both large and small across Africa, but the promise of a continent-wide movement is truly inspiring. Restoring landscapes will empower and enrich rural communities while providing downstream benefits to those in cities. Everybody wins.”
Dr. Andrew Steer, president, and CEO, World Resources Institute hailed the latest multi-national initiative.
“Restoration is really Africa’s gift to the world. As the world forges a climate agreement in Paris, African countries— which bear the least historic responsibility for climate change-- are showing leadership with ambitious pledges to restore land. These countries are well on their way to meet the goal of restoring 100 million hectares of land, which will help sequester carbon and bring economic benefits to low-income, rural communities."
Steer gave praise to the people behind the program.
These African leaders are turning their words into action and making a real contribution to respond to the global threat of climate change.”
For more information on this project click on the link below.

RELEASE: African Countries Launch AFR100 to Restore 100 Million Hectares of Land