African leaders and experts met at the sidelines of the COP26 Climate Summit Tuesday to discuss the steps towards the achievement of AFR100, a pledge made in 2015 to restore more than 100 million hectares of degraded lands by 2030.
The AFR100 (the African Forest Landscape Restoration Initiative) is a country-led effort to bring 100 million hectares of land in Africa into restoration by 2030.
The speakers addressed several issues of urgency including how to incentivize farmers to embrace regenerative agriculture and other techniques that contribute to a reduction in greenhouse emissions.
Dr. Agnes Kalibata, President of AGRA (Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa), proposed carbon marketing as a key strategy for renewing damaged agro-ecologies across Africa.
Carbon marketing is an incentive program that involves issuing financial rewards to individuals and communities that plant trees or rehabilitate their farms and landscapes to satisfy established carbon financing requirements.
“We need to start doing carbon farming and letting those farmers that are working on regenerative agriculture benefit from a carbon farming perspective…there must be people that are prepared to compensate these farmers for their effort,” Dr. Kalibata said.
Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, the President of the African Development Bank Group, added that a proper valuation of forests must be conducted to come up with an ideal carbon pricing framework.
“By placing a proper price on carbon, we will create better incentives for forest preservation by carbon sequestration. Without incentives or payments for environmental services, we simply are not going to see change,” he said.
Dr. Akiwumi further noted that investments which enable smallholder farmers to increase their food crop yields end up leading to a reduction in forest destruction, something that Dr. Kalibata confirmed citing the success of different AGRA projects in Kenya.
“Our work with GEF and UNEP in Western Kenya stopped farmers from encroaching on the Mt. Elgon Forest after they increased their maize yields by 146%, doubled their vegetable yields and increased their bean yields by 46%. This is more than they wanted from their land, so they are willing to step back and let the land go; and they actually planted 250 million trees in this period!” Dr. Kalibata said.
The AFR100 was initiated at COP21 as a pledge to restore more than 100 million hectares of land in 15 years. To date, 32 African governments have pledged to restore 128 million hectares, although actual confirmed restoration activities are only taking place on 4 million hectares, mostly due to insufficient financing.
Charlotte Pera, the VP for Strategy and Programs at the Jeff Bezos Earth Fund, said that the restoration activities could be quickened through the combined financial resources of philanthropic, public and private sector organizations.
“Philanthropic resources are very modest compared to public funding, and certainly private financing, and we need all of it – restoring nature will cost trillions of dollars every year. We require a level of resources that require public and philanthropic funding, but ultimately, it is going to be the private sector that is going to get us to those trillions,” she said.
The session concluded with an appeal from Yvonne Aki-Sawyer, the Mayor of Sierra Leone’s capital city, Freetown, to ground all afforestation work on communities as a way of securing the buy-in needed for sustainable restoration work.
The COP26, the 26th United Nations Climate Change conference, was launched in Glasgow, Scotland on 31 October; it ends on 12 November 2021. The forum summit is bringing parties together to accelerate action towards the goals of the Paris Agreement and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.