Forest landscape restoration: It’s not only about planting trees

21 Sep 2019

Photo credit: First Skype exchange.

By Arnaud Ngoumtsa and Sven Schuppener, Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH

Under the Bonn Challenge and the African Forest Landscape Restoration Initiative (AFR100), Cameroon pledged to restore 12 million hectares of degraded forest landscapes by 2030. To attain  this ambitious goal, the African Union Development Agency (AUDA) and GIZ (Germany’s international development agency) supported the establishment of a South-South exchange platform. As Madagascar has already adopted its national strategy, the bilateral exchange platform aims to harness their practical experience and devise a national forest landscape restoration strategy for Cameroon.

Therefore, a Malagsy delegation visited members of the Cameroonian Technical Secretariat of the Working Group for the Restoration and Rehabilitation of Degraded Landscapes and Landscapes (ST-RPF) earlier this month. Throughout several meetings, the delegation shared their know-how on developing and implementing their national forest-landscape restoration (FLR) strategy. The exchange resulted in a number of key recommendations for the development of Cameroon’s national strategy. The visit was preceded by a detailed exchange via Skype and several weeks of preparation.

First steps toward a South-South exchange

After adopting its national FLR strategy in 2017, Madagascar has been advancing its agenda at a remarkable pace. Drawing from his country’s experience, Julien Noël Rakotoarisoa, National Focal Point of FLR from the Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development in Madagascar, highlighted the significance of a holistic approach to FLR. During their first Skype exchange, Cameroonian National FLR-focal point Christophe Bring and secretariat member Leonel Tadong enquired their colleague for an hour and a half on all aspects of FLR in Madagascar.

“FLR is a process, not a project,” Rakotoarisoa answered. In Madagascar, the selection of key ecosystem services to be improved, marked the beginning of the Malagasy FLR strategy. His advice for Cameroon was to widen its FLR definition by looking beyond the goal of “just planting trees,” considering for example soil, water and biodiversity aspects.

Devising main pillars of the national strategy

The second meeting had a much more strategic focus, aiming to identify the main pillars of the national strategy for Cameroon. The formulation of the axes constitutes the basis of a strategy development process.

“These axes should allow to meet all the challenges facing Cameroon to achieve the ambitious objective of restoring 12 million hectares of degraded land by 2030,” Anicet Ngomin from the Ministry of Forests and Wildlife affirmed during the pre-validation workshop. Thus, the strategy should encompass issues ranging from institutional and local governance to upscaling, stakeholder involvement and financing. Particular emphasis should be placed on decentralized spatial planning. Indeed, researchers at the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) found that inconsistent policies between sectors compromised incentives for restoration.

“It makes you want to dream”

Moving FLR forward, participants agreed that much more awareness-raising on the importance of a landscape approach will be necessary. Integrating trees in a landscape could only be successful by focusing on the specific ecosystem services needed in this specific region and then to combine this with spatial and land use planning. In the Diana and Boeny regions, Madagascar has already implemented innovative restoration projects based on a comprehensive landscape approach.

“We should aim high with FLR”, says Rakotoarisoa, as this process has the potential to accelerate complementary concepts such as REDD+ or Land Degradation Neutrality. Excited about the efficient work of the technical secretariat in Madagascar, Tadong admitted that these achievements “make you want to dream.”

Cameroonian and Malagsy delegates agreed that stakeholder involvement will be crucial as “the development of a strategy should be an inclusive and participatory process”. Similarly, Bessau et al (2018) found that to be effective, restoration must cross sectoral boundaries, between the ministries of agriculture, forestry, environment and finance to bring together stakeholders from all sectors, including universities, civil society, indigenous communities, local authorities and the private sector.
Members of the Malagasy and the Cameroonian technical secretariats on forest landscape restauration and AFR100 after a pre-validation workshop

Peer-learning and next steps

Divided into groups of thematic experts, delegates discussed their fields of expertise in a more in-depth manner toward the end of the visit. The Malagasy experts on local and national governance, multi-stakeholder processes as well as land use and spatial planning identified steps forward with their Cameroonian counterparts. Jean Jacques Jaozandry concluded that “with enthusiasm and political commitment, the members of the working group will be able to make FLR a national priority.”

By the end of October, Cameroon will have completed the development of a national RPF strategy. The Cameroonian delegation’s trip to Madagascar will allow members of the technical secretariat to learn how to move from a strategy to implementation. Furthermore, the participants announced that the results and recommendations of this exchange will be shared at the fourth AFR100 Partner Meeting in Accra.

The Malagasy delegation included

  • Julien Noël Rakotoarisoa, is the National Focal Point for the African Forest Landscape Restoration Initiative (AFR100) at the Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development of Madagascar. 
  • Iantefana Liantsoa Rajenarison, is a member of the Malagasy National Committee on RPF. She is also the head of the Development Department within the General Directorate of Education, Science and Culture at the Ministry of Land Use Planning.
  • Jean Jacques Jaozandry, is the director of Reforestation and Landscape and Forest Management at the Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development of Madagascar.

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