Growing Trees: AFR100, an African Reforestation Commitment
At the Global Landscapes Forum during the 2015 Conference of Parties (COP21) in Paris, a pan-African and country-led commitment was announced called the African Forest Landscape Restoration Initiative (AFR100). This initiative centers on a plan to restore 100 million hectares (386 thousand square miles) of deforested land. It also supports the African Resilient Landscapes Initiative (ARLI), which the World Resources Institute (WRI) tells us is
“an initiative to promote integrated landscape management with the goal of adapting to and mitigating climate change.”
AFR100 also builds on The Bonn Challenge, a global endeavor to restore 150 million hectares of the planet’s deforested lands. The Bonn Challenge was initiated in 2011, aspires to reach this goal by 2020, and is currently 57 percent complete. It is not a new, independent global challenge so much as a promoter and network of other environmental commitments. The Bonn Challenge site states that it functions with a focus on restoration’s
“importance across sectors, including in agriculture, energy, water, poverty alleviation and climate change.”
The United States Department of Agriculture Forest Service defines reforestation as
“an element of a land stewardship ethic that includes growing, nurturing, and harvesting trees to meet specified resource objectives while conserving soil, air, and water quality in harmony with other resource management concerns.”
Reforestation is not a simple solution; for example, Nature World News shares that when exotic or low water use trees are used this practice can end up damaging a local ecosystem. Deciding which lands constitute forests can be a debated issue that affects the amount of lands protected and how they are reforested. UF biology professor Francis E. (Jack) Putz encourages decision makers to rely on The Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations’ definition of a forest as an
“area of more than 0.5 hectares, or a little more than an acre, with trees taller than about 16 feet and more than 10 percent canopy cover.”
Deforestation is a concern for international food production because trees play several vital roles in supporting agriculture. These include rooting the soil to prevent soil erosion, participating in the water cycle, intercepting pollution, and reducing the effect of floods.
Deforestation accounts for 20 percent of worldwide carbon dioxide emissions. Ten countries; DRC, Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, Liberia, Madagascar, Malawi, Niger, Rwanda, and Togo, have agreed to join AFR100. WRI shares that reforestation provides
“improved soil fertility and food security, greater availability and quality of water resources, reduced desertification, increased biodiversity, green jobs, economic growth, and increased capacity for climate change resilience and mitigation.”
AFR100 seeks to restore trees to forests and agricultural lands through agroforestry which involves incorporating trees among crops and into livestock production systems. WRI and The German Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) have provided some of the initial funding for this initiative. AFR100 seeks to
“balance social, economic and environmental objectives as articulated by the ‘landscape approach’ especially in regard to the participation of women, local communities, and vulnerable people.”
The Green Belt Movement is an example of an organization that seeks to strengthen communities, and particularly women, through tree planting initiatives in Kenya, where there is also a current Mau Reforestation project.