A personal take on forest landscapes restoration in Africa
A personal take on forest landscapes
restoration in Africa
GLOBAL LANDSCAPES FORUM
29-30 August 2018, Nairobi
Robert Nasi, CIFOR
“When I arrived in Cameroon in 1982,
there was no mention of restoration,
forest certification or climate change.
The focus was on economic
development and on the use of natural
resources offered by the humid forests.
Fast-forward 35 years…
We have huge restoration pledges
(AFR100), the recognition of
importance of African forests and
savanna for climate change,
biodiversity and environmental
services. China and India emerged as
major trading partners displacing old
colonial powers. We have seen huge
improvements in democracy and free
elections and there are 1.3 billion
The Guardian, 2018
“A series of recent publications
highlight a global increase in tree
cover, a worldwide
encroachment of savanna by
trees, the large scale greening of
the Sahel. All this triggered by
climate change and human
But where and how?
The Sahel looks greener, global
deforestation has decreased and
there is even a net growth in tree
cover. The main greening
outside the Sahel is in Northern
Europe and China whereas
degradation seems to prevail
around the Amazon and in the
“So do we still need restoration?
Unfortunately we do and more than ever. About 12 million hectares of land
are lost each year to degradation, harming the wellbeing of more than 3
We must restore at least these 12 million hectares annually simply to reach
land degradation neutrality. And if we want to rectify errors from the past, then
we need to run twice as fast.”
“Let’s first understand the drivers of degradation…”
“A key question is where to
restore, how, for whom.
Any tree-less or seemingly
unproductive area is not
necessarily a place to restore.
Africa offers the greatest potential
for forest landscape restoration but
we need to be careful. We should
not listen to the tyranny of trees in
Restoration is more than planting
trees, it can take many forms from
exclosures to intensive planting.
Restoring forest landscapes is not
only about ecosystems but also
mainly about people and
“Before restoring, it is important to understand and agree on
what degradation is…
• Degradation is a state of
• A forest is not degraded
provided it retains
dynamics that facilitate
• Once in a state of arrested
intervention is required.”
Ghazoul et al., 2015
“How do we measure restoration
Unfortunately, this is not as easy as it
sounds and it depends on the actual
purposes of restoration as well as the
The literature mostly relates to either
the return to an ideal pre-degradation
ecosystem, that is in most case
impossible because conditions have
changed or to an increase of the
production of ecosystem goods and
services compared to the degraded
“Another key question is, how are we going to
An estimate of the funding needed is about
$350 billion… but $300 of these $350 billion
are not there and need to be found.
So to finance restoration at the scale needed
it must become an economic activity and
financially attractive one way or another.
The value of ecosystem services lost
annually to degradation is estimated at 6.3
At the same time, achieving restoration at
scale could result in trillions in net benefit and
a significant return on investments.
Restoring degraded forests generates an
estimated $7–30 in economic benefits for
every dollar invested.”
“We need a paradigm change.
We need to invest in R&D and proper
planning to lower the restoration costs, to
provide increased incomes and to create
an industry that create jobs, and to invest
in a natural capital that provides goods
and services to society.
For financing, let’s turn to blended finance
and active participation of the private
sector. For sustainability, let’s promote
• Venter, Z. S., Cramer, M. D., & Hawkins, H. J. (2018): Drivers of woody plant encroachment over Africa. Nature communications, 9(1), 2272.
• The Guardian (2018): The great African regreening: millions of 'magical' new trees bring renewal.
• Song, X. P., Hansen, M. C., Stehman, S. V., Potapov, P. V., Tyukavina, A., Vermote, E. F., & Townshend, J. R. (2018). Global land change from 1982 to
2016. Nature, 1.
• IPBES (2018): Summary for policymakers of the assessment report on land degradation and restoration of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy
Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services. R. Scholes, L. Montanarella, A. Brainich, N. Barger, B. ten Brink, M. Cantele,B. Erasmus, J. Fisher, T.
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(eds.). IPBES secretariat, Bonn, Germany. 44 pages
• World Resources Iinstitute (2014): “Atlas of Forest and Landscape Restoration Opportunities” (World Resources Institute, Washington, DC
• Veldman, J. W., Overbeck, G. E., Negreiros, D., Mahy, G., Le Stradic, S., Fernandes, G. W., ... & Bond, W. J. (2015): Tyranny of trees in grassy biomes.
Science, 347(6221), 484-485.
• World Resources Institute (2014): Restoration: It’s About More than Just the Trees. http://www.wri.org/blog/2014/05/restoration-it%E2%80%99s-
• Center for International Forestry Research (2017): Restoring forest landscapes: A question of community rights.
• Ghazoul, J., Burivalova, Z., Garcia-Ulloa, J., & King, L. A. (2015). Conceptualizing forest degradation. Trends in ecology & evolution, 30(10), 622-632.
• World Resources Institutes (2017): Roots of prosperity: The Economics and Finance of Restoring Land
• Strassburg, B.B.N., Latawiec, A.E. (2014): The Economics of Restoration: Costs, benefits, scale and spatial aspects. Convention of Biological Diversity
meeting, Linhares, 2014