The most recent Global Landscapes Forum (GLF) conference, focusing on restoration in Africa, was attended by 800 people from the worlds of research, natural resource management and the private sector, and watched by thousands more online.
The CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA) played key roles in the event, which was held in Nairobi, Kenya, on Aug. 29-30, including as a funding partner. With restoration a major priority of FTA’s work, the program hosted or cohosted two Discussion Forums and a side event, while its partner institutions hosted two Launchpads.
Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) Director General Robert Nasi gave a keynote speech during the Opening Plenary in which he queried why the massive cost to society of landscape degradation is not recognized when restoration brings impressive returns. The cost of inaction is at least three times the cost of active ecosystem restoration, and on average the benefits of restoration are 10 times higher, leading to increased employment, increased business spending, improved gender equity, increased local investment in education and improved livelihoods.
Ecosystem restoration can generate tangible benefits, which will increase food and water security, contribute to climate change mitigation and adaptation, and contribute to addressing associated risks such as conflict and migration. Short-term gains from unsustainable land management often turn into long-term losses, making the initial avoidance of land degradation an optimal and cost-effective strategy.
We need a paradigm change: from seeing landscape restoration as a high-cost activity with no financial returns to land owners and only environmental benefits, to one which provides increased incomes to landowners, creates jobs, and results in ecosystem goods and services for society as a whole, Nasi said.
Following the opening remarks, the afternoon of the event’s first day saw Social inclusion, equity and rights in the context of restoration – lessons from the ground, a discussion addressing restoration initiatives in different environmental and sociopolitical landscapes. Safeguarding the rights of local communities and promoting the voice and influence of their members in an equitable manner must be central in restoration to avoid perpetuating inequalities, to incentivize women and men to contribute to restoration efforts, and to provide greater opportunities and enhanced wellbeing for women and men alike, the session found.
The discussion aimed to extract, share and discuss concrete actions and conditions that have hindered or facilitated success in terms of rights, equality and wellbeing of local and indigenous women and men. It featured three different restoration initiatives from East Africa, as well as providing guidance on how to integrate robust socioeconomic targets and indicators in national and global restoration efforts.
The session was hosted by CIFOR with the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF), Bioversity International, FTA, the CGIAR Research Program on Water, Land and Ecosystems (WLE), International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT), Rights and Resources Initiative (RRI), World Resources Institute (WRI), UN Environment, Program on Forests (PROFOR), Komaza and Vi Agroforestry.
Among the panel of notable speakers were FTA gender coordinator Marlène Elias of Bioversity International, and Cecile Ndjebet, president of the African Women’s Network for Community Management of Forests (REFACOF).
During the same timeslot, a Launchpad session presented the key products and outcomes of a prototype of the Eastern Africa Forest Observatory (OFESA) to policymakers, practitioners and the general public.
Hosted by CIFOR, Agricultural Research for Development (CIRAD) and the Regional Centre for Mapping of Resources for Development (RCMRD), speakers presented products including the observatory’s website and capabilities, a State of Forests report for the region covering Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania and Mozambique, as well as recommendations for the longer term sustainability of the observatory.
OFESA was developed in response to the significant loss of forests experienced in the region with negative impacts on forest goods and services and local livelihoods. Many factors driving forest cover loss are transboundary in nature, resulting in the need to monitor at a regional scale to ensure sustainable forest management and conservation.
However, the existing forest monitoring systems and initiatives are divergent, varying in scale, frequency and the type of data gathered, thus challenging forest monitoring at a regional scale. The regional forest observatory therefore provides member countries with a platform for sharing, exchanging and accessing data and information related to forests and REDD+ in support of decision-making processes by governments and other actors.
The observatory has data and information on forest cover trends and drivers that countries can use to track progress towards achieving restoration targets under the African Forest Landscape Restoration Initiative (AFR100) and other initiatives such as Forests 2020.
Directly afterwards, in the early evening, was Rights, access and values: Trees in shifting economic and political contexts – new insights from sub-Saharan Africa, hosted by FTA and the CGIAR Research Program on People, Institutions and Markets (PIM).
This session, with four cases from Ghana, Burkina Faso, Kenya and Uganda, initiated a discussion on the dynamics of securing rights to trees by harnessing the values of trees through changing access to technologies, markets and finance in Sub-Saharan Africa, aiming to improve knowledge of tree tenure dynamics and increase recognition of the value of trees on farms to different users.
Improved recognition of the values of, and rights to, trees in land use decision-making and related policies and programs may provide an innovative pathway to sustain forested landscapes without recourse to costly restoration activities, but suboptimal tenure rules may jeopardize this, the session concluded.
Held simultaneously was Sustainable woodfuel value chains in sub-Saharan Africa – policies, practices and solutions contributing to the continent’s restoration agenda, a side event organized by CIFOR with ICRAF, Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit – GIZ, UN Environment, Forest and Farm Facility (FFF), FTA and the European Union.
Woodfuel is the main cooking fuel for over 60 percent of households in Africa, which is expected to increase in coming decades, due to a lack of alternative household energy and growing charcoal demand in urban centers. The commercialization of woodfuel provides income to millions of people but is increasingly associated with detrimental impacts on the environment as supply basins in many countries are becoming severely degraded.
The side event explored how woodfuel value chains can be made sustainable and ultimately contribute to landscape restoration, livelihoods improvement and broader national climate change commitments, while balancing short-term socioeconomic and long-term ecological benefits.
The discussions focused on good practices and innovations for sustainable woodfuel value chains that can help to mitigate against deforestation and landscape degradation whilst enhancing livelihoods of producers and traders, with a specific emphasis on the important role of women in the value chain and how to increase gender equity.
The lineup of speakers included CIFOR’s Director General Robert Nasi on woodfuel as a sustainable energy source or driver of degradation, and ICRAF’s Phosiso Sola on the realities of woodfuel governance in sub-Saharan Africa.
FTA was represented a final time on the second day of the event with a second Launchpad, Trees for Seeds, a foundation for resilient restoration, hosted by Bioversity International. With around 12 percent, or 2 billion hectares, of the earth’s land surface currently degraded, the annual cost of degraded lands reaches 10 percent of global gross domestic product. The potential societal benefits of restoring degraded land are in the order of US$84 billion per year, a comparison that the session drew upon.
Restoration of degraded tropical forest landscapes offer some of the greatest returns on investment, to address climate change, reduce poverty and food insecurity and support biodiversity. To deliver the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), optimal restoration approaches are vital and the link between knowledge of native tree diversity and appropriate use to address SDGs in currently lacking. This represents a significant gap in capacity to enable scaling up forest landscape restoration (FLR) pledges from the Bonn Challenges to deliver multiple SDGs through restoration of degraded lands.
The Launchpad presented Bioversity International’s Trees for Seeds initiative, with Marius Ekue examining the current gaps in capacity and knowledge on delivery of native tree species relevant to AFR100 and introducing how Trees for Seeds can support resilient restoration in the region, Barbara Vinceti covering nutrition-sensitive restoration in Burkina Faso and Marlène Elias with gender-responsive FLR and novel approaches to ensure equality in FLR decision-making, before a panel discussion.
Rounding out the event, ICRAF Director General Tony Simons spoke during the Policy Plenary, before CIFOR’s Nasi spoke during the Closing Plenary. Highlighting its success, Nasi emphasized the number of people in attendance in person at the event, as well as a significant reach online.
“We have discussed about restoration, […] social innovation, rights, tenure, gender, monitoring, what is success, how to finance success, what we need to do in terms of policy. We had a very inspirational contribution by young people, the youth. We have done a lot of networking,” he said, adding that there was a “dynamism” evident throughout the event.
Over its two days of talks, GLF Nairobi helped to build and align international, national and private sector support for forest and landscape restoration, paving the way for turning support into action. Bringing together actors from all backgrounds and sectors, the conference has sparked a global conversation around Africa’s landscapes.