Some Ideas on Implementing REDD+ in African Forestry
Godwin Kowero, African Forest Forum (AFF)
ABSTRACT: In the forestry sector the climate change debate and resources have been targeted more on mitigation of climate change
(REDD+) and less on adaptation. Mitigation efforts are important in avoiding impact of climate change; however, adaptation activities are
very important in alleviating the non-avoidable effects. There is a need to maintain a balance between adaptation and mitigation in terms of
attention and resources. Policies and related decisions on REDD+ in Africa focus on the key components of REDD+, that is: reducing
deforestation and forest degradation, improving forest conservation, promoting sustainable forest management (SFM), and enhancement of
carbon stocks. The components of REDD+ are not new to the forestry sector in Africa; therefore one has to look at what has been achieved
in working on those components and evaluate the added value of REDD+.
After almost half a century and a lot of investments, independent African countries have been controlling deforestation and forest
degradation, conserving natural forests and cultivating SFM without significant gains. Reasons for this include policy failures or absence
of relevant policies in both forestry and related sectors. Secondly, deforestation and forest degradation are accelerating at a faster pace in
the dry forests and woodlands as opposed to tropical rainforests. Thirdly, the forces behind deforestation and forest degradation are similar
in both forest types, but with industrial harvesting being the main reason in closed forests while support to human, livestock and wildlife
survival are predominant in the dry forests and woodlands. Fourthly, direct conversion of forests into permanent agriculture is the biggest
driving force for deforestation. Fifthly, deforestation and forest degradation are linked to overall national socio-economic development.
And lastly, deforestation and forest degradation is not happening uniformly.
Further, efforts to support poverty reduction through forest projects have not achieved their desired objectives. Also projects that employ
‘payment for environmental services’, the approach implicit in REDD+, are observed to have had mixed results. In addition, experience
with forest carbon projects are reported to generate few benefits for the poor. This underlines the essence of combining national and
location-specific policies and other measures to address these issues in the context of REDD+.
REDD+ could be implemented in a given area with the goal of reducing emissions and with a constraint that the people who depend on
that forest resource will not be made worse off through such a process. This is because the objective of reducing emissions and that of
poverty reduction can hardly be achieved on the same forest; but both are rational development objectives. There has to be some trade-off
between the two objectives. Implementation of REDD+ cannot guarantee that poverty will be eliminated, and that should not be the focus
of REDD+ because poverty alleviation can only be brought about by a much broader set of carefully structured and implemented policies
and activities. Therefore the implementation of REDD+ should be guided by policies and programs that focus on attaining a certain level
of reduction of emissions while not adversely affecting the poor.
Key areas REDD+ is addressing:
Deforestation and forest degradation
Sustainable Forest Management (SFM)
Enhancement of carbon stocks
All these are part of the core business of forestry-not that new!
Approaches to addressing these issues in the last 50 years:
1. National forestry policies and plans :
Restrictions on access to forests for cropland, human habitation,
livestock grazing, etc. (in forest laws/regulations)
Controlled harvesting through selective harvesting, guided by
annual allowable cut. (under SFM)
Other activities in primary and secondary forest production (in
policies, plans, laws )
2. International agreements, protocols, conventions and initiatives
like CBD, UNCCD, UNFF-NLBI-all target deforestation and forest
1. After almost 50 years of independence what has been achieved?
Forest cover continues to decline in many African countries
(FAO 2009: State of World’s Forests)
1990-2000 (%) 2000-2005 (%)
East Africa 0.94 0.97
Southern Africa 0.63 0.67
Northern Africa 0.64 0.69
West Africa 1.17 1.17
Central Africa 0.37 0.28
Africa 0.64 0.62
2. Main causes of forest area changes
(FAO 2009: State of World’s Forests)
More resources to agriculture to improve
productivity at forest margins?
Conversion to small scale permanent agriculture 59 (%)
Conversion to large scale permanent agriculture and industrial
Intensification of agriculture in shifting cultivation areas 8
Expansion of shifting cultivation into undisturbed forests 4
Other causes 9
Gains in forest area and canopy cover 8
Support to poverty reduction through official development assistance
(ODA) funded forestry projects has had limited success.
Projects on “payment of environmental services” (approach implicit in
REDD+) have mixed results.
The price of carbon is very low, it does not reflect the magnitude of the
problem , the urgency to contain it, and the cost of supporting this
We price forest products and services, but not ecosystem functions that
make those products and services available. A fundamental flaw!
Among the rural poor, there are many concerns that are more
immediate than tackling deforestation and forest degradation
The emerging picture
1. Almost half a century investment without significant gains on combating
deforestation and forest degradation due to in part to policy failures or
absence of relevant policies in both forestry and related sectors
2. Deforestation and forest degradation more rampant and accelerating faster
in dry forests and woodlands (Eastern, Southern and parts of West Africa)
than in the rain forests.
3. In both rain forests and dry forests the agents of deforestation are similar
but with the industry more prominent in rain forests , while support to
human, livestock and wildlife survival is more prominent in dry forests and
The emerging picture
4. Biggest driving force is direct forest conversion to permanent agriculture
(>70% of recent forest cover change).
5. Deforestation and forest degradation is not happening uniformly within sub-
regions and countries.
6. African forests and trees support key sectors of the economies of many
countries, viz. energy, crop and livestock agriculture, wildlife and tourism,
water, employment and incomes for livelihood support to many.
Therefore deforestation and forest degradation are linked to overall national
socio-economic development .
Effective implementation of REDD+ in Africa, will therefore have to take into
consideration at least these six observations
Activities against REDD, enhancing carbon stocks, and forest conservation:
cutting trees and clearing forests for cropland,
collecting fodder for livestock or grazing livestock in the forests and
collecting firewood and burning charcoal,
harvesting timber and poles for domestic housing,
collecting of non-forest products that support livelihoods.
All these activities support individual and national economies.
All these activities are important for poverty eradication.
All these activities appear to go against the thrust of REDD+
Emerging tentative conclusion:
Poverty reduction objectives and those of REDD+ are/might not be compatible on
1. Accept that REDD+ policies in specific forest types will have to address
the allowable deforestation needed for socio-economic development including
providing access for people who depend on these resources to enhance their
2. Understand the complex set of proximate causes and underlying causes
driving forest cover change in given location.
3. Establish trade-off between REDD+ and poverty reduction
1. REDD+ is about reducing emissions and NOT eliminating emissions
2. REDD+ cannot eliminate or sufficiently reduce poverty on its own.
3. REDD+ provides for trade in carbon, an additional service from the
forests. That is the new thing to forestry practice.
4. REDD+ and carbon finance should not be seen as a way of narrowing
the focus on forestry development.
5. REDD+ should be seen as a whole and not only in terms of carbon.
6. Apart from increasing emphasis on better forest management through
the four components, REDD+ expands the horizon for managing
forests for multiple products/services and uses.
7. So how do we incorporate REDD+ in forest management?
Forests managed under REDD+ regime with an added objective of reducing
Decide on a specified level of reduction of emissions
Identify the constraint (s) to achieving this objective- (no harm to the
Key constraining activities:
Cutting trees and clearing forests for cropland,
Collecting fodder for livestock or grazing livestock in the forests and
Collecting firewood and burning charcoal,
Harvesting timber and poles for domestic housing,
Collecting of non-timber forest products that support livelihoods.
Incorporate their effects in the emissions reduction objective.
REDD+ should be a tool for achieving SFM
and reducing poverty
Wood Fire wood Industrial timber
Non-wood Edible fruits
No change-Low Moderate-High
Forest cover change
1. Promote policies and actions for SFM
SFM is key to containing deforestation and forest degradation.
Managing forests with an additional objective of reducing
emissions could gradually be promoted as a regular good
forestry practice, with or without financial incentives.
2. Make better use of National Forest Programmes (nfps)
Nfps are key to forest policy formulation, planning and implementation
3. Improve efficiency in harvesting, processing and use of forest products
(e.g. fuelwood, timber, and non-timber products)
4. Increase the supply of forest and tree products and services
(e.g. plantation forestry, conservation agriculture with trees, agroforestry)
5. Build/Enhance the capacity to asses forests
their ability to maintain or increase human resilience to climate change
for the forest to enhance its resilience to climate change .
6. Create/Develop markets for environmental services, like carbon .
7. Strengthen forest governance
(include rights of indigenous people and forest dependants)
8. Significantly increase support existing initiatives and programmes
(e.g. nfps, international agreements and conventions like CBD, UNFF-NLBI,
They all facilitate attainment of REDD+ objectives.
Many societies in Africa continue to adapt to effects of climate
change and variability.
Not clear how forests and trees are adapting to climate change
this is a prerequisite to designing effective mechanisms for the sector to deal
with climate change
However, more attention and resources are currently on
mitigation and not on adaptation.
Adaptation is urgent, requires even more resources than
If people and the forests cannot adapt to the present vagaries of
climate change how can they build up the capacity to mitigate the
Much more attention and funding going to the Congo
basin (180 million ha) as opposed to woodlands and dry
forests (460million ha).
Are we appreciably addressing poverty through
forests in Africa?
Are we really addressing deforestation and
degradation where it is more extensive and damaging to
Focus of AFF’s work
To facilitate the evolution of an African forest based response to climate change
Increased and improved participation of African forestry sector and
stakeholders in climate change issues and initiatives, including adaptation,
mitigation and sharing of possible benefits
How We Do It
Working Group on Climate Change
Sub-committee of the Governing Council of AFF (7members)
Provides policy guidance
Expert Panel on Climate Change (7)
Deals with the science of climate change in African forest sector
1. Create sufficient awareness on influence of climate change on African
relevant studies, workshops, forthcoming book
more work remains
2. Facilitate national and regional forestry related institutions in tackling
climate change issues
involvement of national and regional institutions (AUC, FAO-Regional Office for
Africa, SADC, UNECA)
participating in regional and sub-regional initiatives (SADC,ECOWAS, AFWC,
sharing information with regional and national institutions and individuals.
support Africa in climate change negotiations-AMCEN/AUC
3. Share information on effects of climate change, carbon trade and market
opportunities, lessons from existing climate change related projects.
sharing information from our work-listserv, website, workshops,
4. Create a body of knowledge/expertise on climate change issues of relevance
started with the Expert Panel
forthcoming book (Climate change and African forest and wildlife
much more to be done on capacity building at all levels
5. Facilitate the initiation of a few pilot projects on climate change impacts in
various types of forests
have yet to start work on this
Some planned activities
1. How to increase the adaptation capacity of people, forests and trees, as well as
wildlife, in various landscapes in Africa to climate change and variability .
2. Evaluate the scope, potential and implementation of REDD+ strategies .
3. Assess technologies and experiences in rehabilitation of degraded forests,
woodlands , and drylands
For further information please contact:
The Executive Secretary
African Forest Forum (AFF)
c/o World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF)
P.O. Box 30677 – 00100,
Tel. +254 20 722 4203
Fax: +254 20 722 4001