Over 70 percent of Africa’s population depends on forests: for fuel wood, construction materials, medicine, food, and revenue from forest products. Governments and conservationists recognise Africa’s forests for their high biodiversity and environmental benefits. However, forests face increasing threats including the impacts of climate change, which will change temperature and rainfall patterns and put further stress on the continents forests. Reduced forest cover, the loss of forest species and the flooding of low-lying forests are possible future impacts of global warming.Recently, governments, non-governmental organisations and the private sector have started to value forests’ ability to store carbon, which contributes to efforts to mitigate and adapt to climate change. One important development is the concept of reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD). The REDD programme, currently being discussed within the UNFCCC, sees developing countries manage forests in ways that avoid emissions from deforestation and enhance forests’ capacity to capture and store carbon. For this, they receive payments from industries and countries that emit greenhouse gases for the carbon stored in forest biomass above and below ground. While there is great global interest in REDD, it is important to note the governance issues and monitoring and evaluation challenges that this new initiative raises for Africa. This issue of Joto Afrika identifies some important lessons:
REDD approaches must consider the interactions between agriculture and forests - no forestry management project can succeed without the direct involvement of smallholder farmers, who drive deforestation in Africa
governments and policymakers must accelerate reforms and policies to effectively manage forest planning, forest rights, benefit sharing, cross-sector planning mechanisms and institutional developments. These fundamental aspects are currently lacking
the recent devolution of forest management to communities, across Africa and globally, provides lessons on how to enhance effective, efficient and equitable forest management that achieves climate change benefits and alleviates poverty
Africa contains both dry and humid tropical rainforests, but current REDD discussions and definitions favour humid tropical forest countries. Any REDD mechanism must consider these differences.