Community spirit: The key to forest restoration in Africa
The recent Regional Conference held from September 26 to 28, 2023, in Sokodé gathered nearly 150 participants. This included representatives from Forest and Agricultural Producer Organizations (FAPO) from West Africa and Madagascar, state and local authorities from Togo, as well as technical and financial partners. The primary agenda was to assess the contribution of FAPOs to the Forest Landscape Restoration (FLR) under the AFR100 Initiative. It is a pioneering movement highlighting the commitment of African nations to restore 100 million hectares of degraded and deforested land by 2030.
The conference reaffirmed the critical importance of trees and forests for the food and nutritional security of populations. Attendees recognized that forest landscape restoration is a powerful lever for creating green jobs, improving agricultural practices, and enhancing community resilience to climate change. They also applauded the commitment of West African countries to the AFR100 initiative and the Bonn Challenge, which aims to restore 350 million hectares globally by 2030.
FAPOs, identified as key players in this initiative, play a vital role in the forest landscape restoration through indigenous initiatives such as assisted regeneration, tree planting, agroforestry, and mangrove restoration. The conference emphasized the increased involvement of FAPOs in accelerating restoration during the second phase of the AFR100 initiative.
However, the conference also highlighted ongoing challenges in FLR. Unsustainable exploitation of forest resources, intensive agriculture, urbanization, and land insecurity were identified as major obstacles to restoring forest landscapes. Participants noted the lack of resource mobilization by states and the insufficient funding for small producers and FAPOs, as well as the inadequate recognition of the role and place of women in FLR.
To address these challenges, the conference made recommendations to strengthen FAPO involvement in FLR. These include promoting cross-sectoral cooperation, accelerating the establishment of multi-stakeholder dialogue frameworks, and enhancing support for the valuation of Non-Timber Forest Products (NTFPs).
West African FAPOs, under the leadership of ROPPA and its national platforms, committed to actively contribute to the restoration pledges made by their respective governments under the AFR100 initiative. They also expressed their desire to value indigenous knowledge and mobilize their members around ongoing and future forest ecosystem preservation and restoration initiatives.
In conclusion, this conference marked a significant step towards achieving the goals of the AFR100 Initiative, highlighting the central role of FAPOs in restoring forest landscapes in Africa. It also underscored the need for close collaboration between various stakeholders and increased resource mobilization to ensure the success of these restoration efforts.
Communication and Knowledge Management Officer