African countries have reaffirmed commitment to the Bonn Challenge targeting to restore 150 million hectares of deforested and degraded lands by 2020 and 350 million hectares by 2030.
This is one of the key elements of the Kigali Declaration on Forest Landscape Restoration in Africa announced at the closure of a two-day session in Kigali yesterday.
At least 50 environmentalists and stakeholders on environment were meeting in Kigali to share lessons and experiences as they sought ways to boost forest landscape restoration (FLR) across the region and the globe at large.
The meeting involved two parallel events: the Africa High Level Bonn Challenge Roundtable, and the international knowledge sharing workshop on FLR, which brought together leaders in government from more than 20 African countries that demonstrated leadership on FLR, as well as delegates from international organisations supporting these endeavors.
In the Kigali Declaration, participants also committed to encourage fellow African governments to mainstream restoration into their national development policies; strengthen continental capacity for restoration; and reinforce the collaboration on forest landscape restoration across the region and south-south collaboration.
While officially closing the Africa High Level Bonn Challenge Roundtable, Dr Vincent Biruta, the Minister for Natural Resources, said one of the main objectives of the event was to take inspiration from the Bonn Challenge and foster collaboration.
“By taking time to listen to one another, we have learnt that the challenges we face are striking in their similarity,” he said.
“This tells me that there is great opportunity to work even more closely, continue to learn from one another, and share solutions that work.”
A key theme from the meetings, he emphasised, was the importance of translating political will into results on the ground.
“The pledges we have made are commendable, but we can only reach both our economic and ecological goals if environmental protection initiatives improve the lives of our people. This citizen centered approach is one we have discussed and must continue to promote and implement when we go back to work.”
Participants resolved to, among other things, collaborate as a community of practice around Forest Landscape Restoration; encourage other African countries and Africa’s Regional Economic Commissions to review the benefits and opportunities that can flow from FLR and to make direct contributions to the Bonn Challenge; and seek to integrate Forest Landscape restoration into the sectoral plans, including but not limited to agriculture, energy, infrastructure, mining.
Jesca Eriyo, the East African Community (EAC) deputy secretary-general in charge of productive and social sectors, said it is important that countries deal with their common challenges together.
Eriyo said: “All our livelihoods are based on our forests. I am happy, therefore, that we have reached this level, and have this declaration.”
She further called on countries that have not been able to make their commitments to the Bonn Challenge to endeavour to do so.
As part of the Bonn Challenge, in 2011, Rwanda committed to restore two million hectares of forestry cover by 2020.
Africa alone pledged nearly 45 million hectares of cover.