Investing in forest and landscape restoration as well as ensuring their sustainability will improve livelihoods of African people, experts have said.
Speaking at a two-day Forest and Landscape Investment Forum in Kigali, yesterday, the experts called for investments to make green cover of more than 100 million hectares of degraded forests and land on the continent.
The forum is in line with the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 15 - that calls for halting and reversing land and natural habitat degradation; and the Bonn Challenge - to restore 350 million hectares of the world's deforested and degraded land by 2030.
This commitment, experts said, will improve the quality and resilience of ecosystems, improve livelihoods, secure water and energy supply and support low carbon economic development.
Under the theme, "Unleashing business opportunities for sustainable landscapes," the forum convened more than 250 businessmen, bank representatives, public officials, and representatives of agribusiness cooperatives from Africa.
The meeting focuses on showcasing business opportunities in forest and landscapes, including those in agroforestry and forestry value chains (wood and non-wood forest products), such as coffee, tea, timber, macadamia, silk, and cassava; creating a marketplace for effective forest and landscape project design and increased investment opportunities.
Mamadou Moussa Diakhité, team Leader for sustainable land and water management programme at New Partnership for African Development, said about three million hectares of land and forest cover are degraded in Africa annually.
He said restoring land and forest in Africa has multiple benefits, including economic value, combat desertification and drought and negative impact of climate change and loss of biodiversity.
The Minister for Natural Resources, Dr Vincent Biruta, said the forum will promote a broad spectrum of investments in forests and landscapes for environmental, socio-economic and financial returns.
Diakhité told The New Times that there is estimated $1.5 billion pledged in funding AFR100 Initiative, a country-led effort to restore 100 million hectares of degraded landscapes across Africa by 2030.
He said the World Bank has pledged $500 million funding for landscape restoration in Africa in the next 10 years.
Uneven distribution of investment
Minister Biruta said the ambitious restoration goals set by the global development agenda requires large investments.
Going by a recent analysis by FAO and the UN Convention to Combat Desertification, Biruta said, between $36 to $49 billion of investments are needed every year to achieve these goals.
But investments in forests and landscapes are unevenly distributed because most are made in Latin America and only one per cent are in Africa, he added.
"The main barrier is not the lack of investors but rather the lack of knowledge of stakeholders on the variety of financing opportunities and on how to access them," Biruta said.
"Rwanda pledged to restore two million hectares at the Bonn challenge. Together with other ministers and government officials representing 13 African countries, adopted Kigali declaration reaffirming and increasing their commitment to the Bonn Challenge," he said.