Africa's Call to Action - The Nairobi Declaration and Community-Led Initiatives

Ethiopia Machakel wife of Alemayehu Gachow
28 November 2023
guest column


At the inaugural Africa Climate Summit in Nairobi this fall, African leaders took a monumental step forward in addressing climate change. Their united voice echoed not only the urgency of the crisis but also the continent's determination to join the comity of nations as vital contributors of the solution. The Nairobi Declaration, a call to action, lays out a roadmap for African nations to navigate the unknown waters of climate change.

African leaders have called for urgent measures by developed nations to reduce carbon emissions. They are not merely asking for change; they are proposing a new financing mechanism to address Africa's crippling debt, opening the door to climate funding.

As negotiations at 2023 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP28) begin at the end of the month, this is a unique moment where we have the opportunity for climate justice for the millions of small-scale food producers, particularly women, who have already been impacted by climate change.  According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), women make up about 43% of the agricultural labor force in developing countries. These women are more vulnerable to the impacts of climate change due to their high dependence on local natural resources for their livelihoods. This reality and the repercussions on food security at the community and local level cannot be ignored. Thus, the clarion call for Africa's leaders to allocate funding for community-led climate resilience and adaptation work throughout the continent is not only timely but also indispensable to sustainable communities.,

How can community-led climate work increase climate resilience and food security?

The Hunger Project has long recognized the interconnectedness of climate change, biodiversity, and the end of hunger. Our programs across the continent aim not only to alleviate hunger but also to address the root causes of food insecurity, including the changing climate. We believe that initiatives that promote climate-resilient and climate-friendly agricultural practices, such as agro-forestry, landscape restoration, and agro-ecology are key to creating a world without hunger, especially as rural communities increasingly face the devastating effects of climate change in the form of floods, droughts, and other natural disasters.

Ethiopia's Green Legacy Initiative, one of the most ambitious environmental restoration programs in the world, is just one example of how mobilizing communities can increase the sustainability of climate resilience work. The initiative, launched in 2019 by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, aims to plant 20 billion trees across the country and plant 32 billion seedlings by the end of 2023, as part of Ethiopia's commitment to the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals and its pledge to combat climate change. Through the initiative, the government of Ethiopia hopes to combat deforestation, increase the country's forest cover, diversify farming practices, and enhance the ecosystem services that forests provide, such as clean air, water, and healthy soil. Furthermore, the initiative also aims to create green jobs and stimulate economic growth by promoting sustainable land-use practices across board.

Since the launch of the Green Legacy Initiative, remarkable strides have been made in achieving its objectives. One of the pivotal achievements is the successful planting of over 32 billion seedlings from the initiative's launch until the conclusion of the 2023 planting season. Furthermore, it has been confirmed that Ethiopia's forest cover has increased from 15% in 2019 to 16.4% in 2021. The Green Legacy Initiative stands out for not only reaching ambitious reforestation goals but also for generating numerous employment opportunities in the forestry and conservation sectors. The initiative has played a crucial role in enhancing awareness about the significance of reforestation and environmental conservation, both within Ethiopia and globally.  Moreover, unemployed youth have actively contributed by establishing temporary nurseries, cultivating seedlings, and supplying them to the market.  This sea change in status comes with encouraging prospects of reduced incidence of hunger and an overall improvement in ensuring food security.

At The Hunger Project-Ethiopia, we have been actively involved in environmental restoration since 2016 and supported the Green Legacy Initiative since its launch.  Through community mobilization we have worked with more than 1400 community partners in 14 Kebeles (rural communities) of West Gojjam Zone of Amhara Region to plant over 1.5 million diverse seedlings to help restore the Gewocha Forest, which is threatened by deforestation. Some of the positive and verifiable impacts include the promotion and adoption of climate-resilient agricultural practices, agro-forestry, landscape restoration, and agro-ecology, plus an increased sense of ownership and stewardship of the land by communities. These holistic approaches not only improve food security, but also contribute significantly to biodiversity preservation—a crucial component of sustainable agriculture and climate resilience. This community-led reforestation program is an integral part of a comprehensive climate resilience strategy, implemented with our dedicated community partners in the lead.

Prioritizing Communities in Climate Financing; Assessment of the Nairobi Declaration

The Nairobi Declaration is a significant stride in addressing climate change, underlining the urgency and the necessity of global cooperation. However, the financing required for Africa's climate-positive growth far exceeds the capacity of national balance sheets. This highlights the critical need for multilateral finance and reform and improvements in the global financial architecture, aligning with initiatives like the Bridgetown Initiative and the Paris Summit for a New Global Financing Pact. 

To truly tackle the climate crisis and its extensive impacts, we must prioritize community-led programming in these financing plans. Community-led initiatives recognize that local communities are pivotal actors in climate resilience and restoration. Integrating these programs into the financing strategies ensures that climate funding reaches the most affected communities, empowering them to drive change at the grassroots level.


As we look ahead to COP 28 and beyond, we must remember that climate change is not a distant problem but a pressing challenge that would linger for long if we are not deliberate about tackling it. To help mitigate its impact, we need to come to terms with the fact that Community-led climate change work not only builds local resilience but also ownership and responsibility.  This is unique in and of itself. The people themselves are responsible for driving the initiative according to their live experiences and available resources. It strengthens the capacity of communities, particularly small-scale food producers, many of whom are women.  By incorporating community-led programming into financing mechanisms, we create a just and effective approach to climate action.

Author Bio:

Dr. Regassa Terefe has over 16 years of experience in forestry conservation, management, and research. Currently serving as the Program Manager of The Hunger Project Ethiopia, his passion lies in environmental conservation, forest management, landscape restoration, and related areas. He actively engages in various societies and acts as an active member, including Ethiopia Soil Society, Ethiopian Forestry Society, and Ethiopian Heritage Trust. Dr. Terefe holds a PhD in Forest Management from Fujian Agriculture and Forestry University of China, an MS.c degree in Agroforestry & Soil management, and a BS.c degree in Forestry from Hawassa University, Wondo Genet College of Forestry & Natural Resources, Ethiopia. His extensive research experience encompasses community development activities, agroforestry, watershed management, landscape restoration, NRM, and managing different projects in the field of agriculture, particularly in community-led climate resilience and restoration.

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