Are Promises To Reforest Africa All About Getting Donor Funding?

By Dana Sanchez Published: December 7, 2015, 2:22 pm
A worker prepares bags of charcoal in a rain forest near Mantadia National Park in Madagascar, 2006. Photo: Jerome Delay/AP

From space, Madagascar looks like it’s bleeding into the ocean, according to the World Wildlife Foundation.

Its fertile red soil, eroded by decades of unregulated logging, is getting washed into the sea, leaving behind craters unsuitable for farming, Associated Press reports in BusinessInsider.

Deforestation has contributed to climate change by producing up to 15 percent of global carbon emissions, says the U.S. nonprofit World Resources Institute.

A coalition of at least 10 African countries and global donor organizations have made an unprecedented commitment at the U.N. Climate Conference — underway through Dec. 11 in Paris — to restore 31 million hectares (76 million acres) of degraded and deforested land by 2030, according to a BusinessStandard report.

It’s part of a new push to make 100 million hectares productive again by 2030, IndependentOnline reports.

The project, named the African Restoration Initiative (AFR100), aims to nurture forest regrowth, creating a “carbon sink” that absorbs climate-altering carbon dioxide and provides a livelihood for the rural poor.

In addition to the African countries, nine financial partners and 10 technical support partners have pledged support including the African Union, the German Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development and the World Resources Institute.

World Bank, the German government and other partners set aside $1 billion plus $540 million in private funding for the African reforestation, according to BusinessInsider.

Countries pledging millions of acres to the project include Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Kenya, Liberia, Madagascar, Malawi, Niger, Rwanda, Togo and Uganda.

West African countries along the Sahara desert have also promised to plant more trees to stop the desert from encroaching and destroying more arable land.

“The scale of these new restoration commitments is unprecedented,” said Wanjira Mathai, daughter of Nobel Peace laureate Wangari Maathai, and chairwoman of the Green Belt Movement. The movement seeks to combat desertification and forest degradation in Africa.

In the past, similar conservation efforts have failed because they do not include the right training and tools to monitor the progress, said Cameroon-based Victorine Che Thoener, head of the environmental group Greenpeace’s Congo Basin project.

“Many of these African countries make these pledges in the hope that they will receive funding,” Thoener said. “There’s a lot of talk, but not a lot of action on the ground.”

There are laws to prevent illegal logging — the biggest cause of deforestation — but it has never been easier to illegally chop down trees in the Congo Basin, Greenpeace says.

Donor funding may also face challenges from the global timber industry, according to Greenpeace.

Corruption in the Congo Basin region has undermined reforms to the timber industry, especially in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where protected wildlife areas are increasingly disturbed, according to a Greenpeace report published earlier this year.

The World Research Institute says it’s working on a monitoring project that includes satellite and ground-level observation, said Sean De Witt, director of the organization’s global restoration initiative.

Land restoration efforts include planting trees, stopping soil erosion and improving soil health, IndependentOnline reports.

Implementing the pledges starting in 2020 will reduce Africa’s annual emissions by 36 percent, or 0.25 percent of global emissions, according to the World Resources Institute.

 

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