Local women taking a canoe across the Congo River. Photo credit: Paul Donfack/AFF


There is growing evidence that climate change is impacting not only on agriculture and food production but also increasingly on forests and forest ecosystems. Africa is one of the most vulnerable regions in the world to climate change, particularly in the vast areas of marginal land where the livelihoods of farmers and forest dependent communities are threatened. Currently, not much is known about the resilience potential of African forests and trees and the diversity of forest types and conditions to adapt to the impacts of climate change. However, forests are not just threatened by climate change, they also hold an immense potential in mitigating against such change, both through reduction in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, especially CO₂, by reducing deforestation, and by and by enhancement of carbon sequestration in expanded growing forest and tree biomass. Thus, both climate response and mitigation by forests and trees, and their interaction, need to be carefully assessed so that informed cross-sectoral strategies and measures can be put in place to promote the role of forests and trees in climate change programmes.

Biodiversity is an important resource for African people for both consumptive (food, fibre, fuel, shelter, medicine, wildlife trade) and non-consumptive (ecosystem services and the economically important tourism industry) purposes. Given the heavy dependence on natural resources in Africa, many communities are vulnerable to the biodiversity loss that currently occur at an alarming rate through conversion of forests to other land uses, extreme climate events, fires and poaching. Effective measures to protect and, preferably, restore already lost plant and animal biodiversity, and the ecosystems they form part of, must urgently be put in place.

Water resources in Africa, their quantities, quality and seasonal availability for human and animal consumption and for agriculture, are strongly related to forest environments. Virtually all major rivers and streams emanate from forested or other wooded areas. Deforestation leads to uneven flow and to erosion and, thereby, reduced water quality. The role of forested watersheds cannot be over-emphasised.

Delineation and goal of AFF’s work

In this thematic area, AFF, with appropriate partners, will work on all relevant aspects on how forest and tree resources interact with and can contribute to positive developments in climate change adaptation and mitigation, biodiversity conservation and enhancement, ensuring water resources availability and quality, and other aspects of forest-environment interactions.

The overall goal is to increase the knowledge and understanding of how forests and trees can contribute to a better environment in Africa, particularly with regard to adaptation to and mitigation of climate change, and to biodiversity and water conservation.

Examples of subjects, challenges and opportunities to be addressed

Climate change and forest and tree resources; e.g. by identifying and analysing drivers, incentives, lessons learnt and policies for attaining Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), as well as their quality and potentials for cooperation between countries; evaluate experiences and lessons learnt from programmes, measures and other activities undertaken by different countries to adapt to, and mitigate against, climate change (e.g. NAMAs, NAPAs and REDD+); explore measures to strengthen resilience and adaptive capacity to climate change of forest dependent communities; strengthen mechanisms for incorporating forest related climate change issues into policies, plans, education and training at national and sub-regional levels.

Biodiversity and water resources; e.g. by identifying and analysing how improved and extended management and conservation of forests and trees can contribute to enhanced biodiversity, more secure water supply and to improved eco-system services; particular attention given to landscape and eco-regional scale issues and to trans-boundary and subregional aspects.

Examples of ongoing and/or concluded AFF activities that fall under this area

  • Oeba, V. & M. Larwanou, 2017. Forestry and Resilience to Climate Change: A Synthesis on Application of Forest-Based Adaptation Strategies to Reduce Vulnerability among Communities in Sub-Saharan Africa. AFF, Nairobi.
  • Kojwang, H.O. & M. Larwanou, 2015. An overview of nationally appropriate mitigation actions (NAMAs) and national adaptation programmes of action (NAPAs) in Africa. In International Forestry Review Vol.17 (S3).
  • Makundi, R.W., 2014. Prospects for REDD+ in African forest plantations. AFF Working Paper Vol. 2 (5).
  • Chidumayo, E., Okali, D., Kowero, G. & M. Larwanou, (eds.), 2011. Climate Change and African Forest and Wildlife Resources. AFF, Nairobi. 249 p.
  • Mujuru, L. & E. Chidumayo, 2014. African woodlands and savannahs: opportunities from and potential of REDD+. AFF Working Paper Vol 2 (15).
  • Forrest-Water relations in Africa. A series of four sub-regional studies all published as AFF Working Papers in 2011: SADC (P. Sola; Vol 1(3)); Sahel (A. Tougiani; Vol 1(7)); Central Africa (L.J. Betti; Vol 1(8); and sub-humid West Africa (L. Popoola; Vol 1(1)