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We’re building a green wall of trees across Africa to fight food insecurity and the climate crisis

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Lewis Kihumba is Communications Manager: Africa at BirdLife International.

Africa is witnessing the highest global deforestation rate. Between 2015 and 2020, Africa’s deforestation rate stood at 4.41 million hectares annually. Major drivers of deforestation on the continent include agricultural developments, infrastructure developments and mining. To combat deforestation, BirdLife International is leading the charge with various restoration initiatives.

Every year, the world celebrates International Day of Forests (IDF) on 21 March, highlighting the importance of these critical ecosystems that are fast declining. According to the 2020 Global Forest Resources Assessment (FRA), the world’s total forest area is about four billion hectares, translating to about 31% of the world’s total area.

These forests are home to about 80% of global biodiversity and play a key role in the wellbeing of humanity, including food, water purification and climate change mitigation, among others. In addition, forests support livelihoods of more than one billion people around the world. 

This year’s IDF theme is “Forests and Health”, highlighting the critical role that forests play in our wellbeing.

Globally threatened bird species

Forests are home to nearly two-thirds of all bird species, including 996 globally threatened species. According to BirdLife International’s State of the World’s Birds 2022 Report, forests in Key Biodiversity Areas (KBAs, most of which have been identified for birds) across the world are being lost, fragmented and degraded by timber harvesting, development and expanding agriculture.

World over, more than 420 million hectares of forests have been lost through conversion to other land uses. Between 2015 and 2020, the rate of deforestation was estimated to be 10 million hectares per year, according to the FRA report.  

Africa is witnessing the highest global deforestation rate. Between 2015 and 2020, Africa’s deforestation rate stood at 4.41 million hectares annually. Major drivers of deforestation on the continent include agricultural developments, infrastructure developments and mining.

Thus, concerted efforts are required to protect this dwindling forest cover for the social and economic wellbeing of all. Restoration of these critical systems must involve local communities who are the guardians and custodians of these critical ecosystems.

BirdLife International is leading the charge across the continent, with various restoration initiatives on national, regional and continental scale.  One such example is Trillion Trees,  a partnership between BirdLife International, the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), which is aiming at restoring one trillion trees around the globe, including in Kenya and Uganda.

Restoring a degraded continent

BirdLife and its national partners in Rwanda, Côte d’Ivoire, Ethiopia and  Nigeria are involved in the AFR100 Initiative as part of the United Nations Decade on Restoration, which seeks to restore 100 million hectares of degraded land across the continent. This initiative aims at reversing deforestation and land degradation to fight climate change, while boosting food security and helping rural communities thrive.

In the Sahel region, BirdLife partners are involved in the African Union-led Great Green Wall Initiative that aims at restoring land in more than 20 countries spanning 8,000km, from Senegal’s Atlantic coast to the east coast of Djibouti.

This initiative aims at restoring more than 100 million hectares of land, and creating 10 million jobs by 2030, thus addressing food security while mitigating conflict brought about by dwindling natural resources in the Sahel.

In Sierra Leone and Liberia, BirdLife partners are working with local communities to effectively manage and conserve the 370,000ha Gola Forest – the largest remaining block of Upper Guinean Forest, straddling the two countries’ borders.

These and other ongoing initiatives will be instrumental in helping the continent achieve its restoration goals. Establishing linkages and partnerships with governments and the private sector can help achieve these restoration targets, especially through strengthening policy and mobilising private sector investments. DM

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  • jimpowell says:

    Consider that the time of the dinosaurs the CO2 was 4000 parts per million. This created massive plant growth and, through the food chain massive animals. Consider that in Russia there are vast deposits of oil, gas and coal to the north where it is now frozen. Consider all aspects when examining CO2 levels. Lower CO2 levels, less food security

  • Clive Poultney says:

    This sounds marvellous and terribly earnest with you leading the charge, but does this happen in reality? Many attempts to get support for growing trees in rural areas such as Maputaland on a regenerative basis integrated into the local economy where land has even been set aside, just land on organisations like Trees For Africa’s desk. And then zip, nothing and more zip to pass back to those communities.

  • Rory Short says:

    The destruction of forests, that is deforestation, should be seen as a crime against humanity. There are efforts to get Ecocide included into the Rome statute along with genocide. We should continue to push for this.

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