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Touted as one of the most promising opportunities to address the most compelling challenges of climate change, African countries welcomed the opportunities offered by REDD+. Excitement was in the air as partner countries present at the UN-REDD Policy Board Meeting in 2009 in Panama City, huddled together during a break to discuss the new opportunities afforded by REDD+. Their minds were flooded with questions: “Will REDD+ finance be accessible and available at scale if countries deliver on their promises? How will capacity building be supported to address expectations from REDD+? Will REDD+ lead to a potential rush on lands and subsequent disenfranchisement of local communities?” While acknowledging challenges to be addressed, Hakuna matata, they said, they embraced REDD+ with enthusiasm tempered with caution.
So why did the continent welcome REDD+ with open arms? Rainforests cover only 13% of African landmass but account for more than 90% of the carbon in the continent’s terrestrial ecosystem. Apart from these tropical forests, a second broad category encompasses dry forest including savannah and miombo. More than any other region, people in Africa are dependent on the forests for energy, food, consumable products, housing, as well as for medicinal supplies. African forests are crucial to climate and development objectives, Conservation, restoration and improved management of forest, including mangroves and peatlands (which could provide 23% of cost-effective mitigation action needed by 2030 to limit global warming to 2 C).
Flowing from the high expectations of this starting point, there are milestones to celebrate, lessons to share, and new directions to chart on what has become Africa’s story on REDD+. Today, countries can proudly articulate progress towards achieving the primary objective of REDD+. The REDD+ communities in various countries confidently pepper their conversations with phrases such as reference level, safeguards, drivers of deforestation, Article 6, results-based finance, deforestation free commodities, innovative financing and private sector partnerships, MRV and jurisdictional approaches. So, what are some of Africa’s major achievements in REDD+
Robust National REDD+ Strategies & Sub-national strategies
Today, Cote d’Ivoire, DRC, Ethiopia, Ghana, Republic of Congo, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia have anchored their REDD+ strategies on a rights-based approach, including gender responsive policies and measures, mitigation measures for environmental and social risks as well as how benefits can be shared. These national strategies have analysed the unique interactions that exist in the African countries. In their geographic and ecological make up, African forests may be more resilient to climate change than in other regions.
Beyond National Strategies, Nigeria has developed a sub-national strategy for Cross River State by promoting a two-pronged approach to REDD+ implementation at both State and Federal levels, which may propel other jurisdictional approaches to REDD+ implementation.
Investment planning towards REDD+ implementation
The exigency of designing REDD+ Strategies with a wide national lens and efforts to acquire financing are slowly coming to fruition. In Zambia, REDD+ readiness laid the foundations for an investment plan for REDD+, as well as initiatives such as the Zambia Integrated Forest Landscape Programme. Both Cote d’Ivoire and Ghana have developed investment programmes with the private sector involved in the global supply chain for commodities such as cocoa and shea. The objective is to have these produced in a more sustainable manner, with less impacts on the environment and more options for social benefits and increased incomes.
The Central African forest countries came together in a historic initiative that supports low emission development investments. The initiative, CAFI, is directed to the development of national investment frameworks and implementation of these through funding whose disbursement is based on the achievement of policy and programmatic milestones that are spelt out in letters of intent. Encouraging donor coordination and alignment and inclusive participation of all stakeholders are hallmarks of the initiative.
Integration of REDD+ into Major Policy, Planning and Programming Processes
Many countries in the region have made tireless efforts to integrate REDD+ into their National planning policy and financing processes. Cote d’Ivoire, DRC, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Uganda, and Zambia, among others, recognize investments in key sectors of the economy and the need to realign investments in these sectors to REDD+. Through an analytical mapping exercise related to land-use investments, Cote d’Ivoire has been able to re-align investments to REDD+. Ethiopia has positioned REDD+ in its Climate Resilient Green Economy (CRGE) Strategy (insert link) and Zambia has integrated REDD+ into the implementation matrix of its 7th National Development Plan.
Strengthened Partnerships with Civil society
Civil society groups organised around REDD+ have had unprecedented opportunity to engage in dialogues at the national scale to weigh into what type of policies and measures based on the discussions around the drivers of forest changes, are needed within REDD+ Strategies and how these can be achieved. During the very first years, civil society groups with members from pluralistic organisations such as the REDD+ Groupe de Travail in DRC were forged. Each of these countries have steering committees or multi-stakeholder working groups to guide the work. A large number of members from local communities, non-governmental organisations, community organisations, researchers and government staff have had the opportunity to critically discuss and analyse land use and land management focusing on issues such as the need for land use planning, zoning and devolution. Cote d’Ivoire, DRC and Republic of Congo, Ghana, Ethiopia, Zambia have taken bold steps towards this.
Measuring, Monitoring and Reporting on Forests
Observing forests for the changes that they undergo over time and monitoring, measuring and verifying these changes are the lynchpin for REDD+. Countries have benefited from more funding, training and capacity for their national forest monitoring systems. Technical committees in all the countries mentioned here are hard at work to determine baselines of emissions to comply with UNFCCC recommendations and standards. In this context, interesting debates unfold and demonstrate the important of interdisciplinary approaches to ensure credibility and salience. In keeping with the incremental approach, countries that have submitted their forest reference levels to the UNFCCC are going through a process of capacity development and introspection as they address difficult questions relating to technical reviews and independent assessments.
The Future of REDD+ in Africa
With all the great progress made by Africa, what is the outlook for the region in the next decade?
African countries have taken bold steps towards REDD+ implementation. Countries can now look forward to implementation and eventual results-based payments, linking REDD+ to their nationally determined contributions and sustainable development goals. They can leapfrog forward building on experiences and lessons from the past decade while tapping into advances in financial technologies, artificial intelligence and blockchain to allow data and information to emanate from REDD+ activities and to monitor and measure results. Strong governance, accountability, transparency and a rights-based approach must remain at the core to sustain these advances into the future.
The gains, when measured, are incontrovertible. The future is here. Africa is at a tipping point and will require continued support at scale to build and consolidate its gains and bold vision on REDD+.
Senior Regional Technical Advisor - UNDP
Elsie Attafuah has over twenty years of experience in programme development, management and implementation, organizational and strategic management, partnerships brokering, resource mobilization, external relations and diplomacy, applied research and policy analysis, and gender and civil society issues. She has worked nationally and internationally in key sectors such as environment and climate change, agriculture, rural development, education, health and social welfare. She is a skilled programme manager who has led multi-cultural and multi-disciplinary teams in Africa, Europe and America. With proven diplomatic, negotiation, leadership, networking, interpersonal and communication skills, Elsie has liaised with Governments, bilateral and multilateral organizations, civil society, private sector and research institutions at the highest levels across many countries.
Wahida Patwa Shah,
Technical Specialist with UNDP’s Forest and Climate Change Team.
She has worked for the past 22 years on supporting efforts towards transitions to sustainable outcomes in the lands and natural resource sector. These processes and activities have involved interactions with local communities, government, multilaterals and the private sector through work with the World Agroforestry Centre, IUCN, a local Kenyan NGO, UN Environment and UNDP. She has been engaged with REDD+ since 2009