The 14th session of the United Nations Forum of Forest (UNFF14) was held in New York on 6-10 May 2019, with a focus on three thematic priorities: (i) Forests and Climate Change; (ii) Forests, inclusive and sustainable economic growth and employment; and (iii) Forests, peaceful and inclusive societies, reduced inequality, education, and inclusive institutions at all levels. In view to contribute to the first thematic priority on Forest and Climate Change, the African Forest Forum scientific team organised a side event at the UN Headquarters on 6 May 2019 on the theme “Experiences on NDCs implementation in some African countries in the context of Agriculture, Forestry and Other Land Uses”.

The side event was jointly organized by AFF, Central African Forest Commission (COMIFAC) and Bern University of Applied Sciences with the aim to share experiences on forest based NDCs implementation in 52 African countries and to draw lessons that would help strengthen the design of forest interventions in the future NDCs from 2020. Scheduled among the first side events of the UNFF14 meeting, it attracted nearly 40 participants representing mainly African delegates, but also delegates from other continents. The panelists were: Dr Marie Louise Avana-Tientcheu (AFF), Dr Vincent Onguso Oeba (AFF), Mr Raymond Mdomba Ngoye (COMIFAC) and Prof Jurgen Blaser (HALF, Switzerland) moderated by Prof Godwin Kowero (AFF).

In their presentation, Marie-Louise AVANA and Vincent Oeba highlighted the road map of Nationally Determined Contributions initiated at the 21st UNFCCC COP in Paris in 2015 where all Members’ parties agreed “to contain climate change, accelerate and intensify actions and investments needed for a sustainable low carbon future”. Although all the 55 African countries had signed the agreement, four of them were yet to submit their nationally Determined Contributions by May 2019, namely Angola, Libya, Senegal and South Sudan. By 2030 known as the turning point for the SDGs, countries will be expected to submit their 4th NDCs after the two global stock assessments of 2023 and 2028.

The African Forest Forum in its project on African forests, people and climate change and in collaboration with its partners undertook studies in 2017 to assess forest-based adaptation and mitigation activities in African countries’ NDCs with the aim to draw lessons that will help strengthening the design of forest interventions in their future climate action plans. Some of the key findings obtained indicated that the share of Agriculture, Forestry and Other Land Uses (AFOLU) categories in African countries NDCs varied between 20-90% of the countries’ adaptation-mitigation options; thus, indicating the importance of these sub-sectors in their climate action strategies. Taking example of some countries projections for mitigations in their NDCs, the presenters showed that for Ghana, a target was set for a reduction from 15% to 45% of their emission reference level if enabling conditions are provided; whereas, for Cameroon the target was -32% of their emission level for 2010, based mainly on improved agricultural practices, among others. For Kenya, restoration of forests and degraded lands, rehabilitation of degraded forests and REDD+ were projected to account for 39.2 MtCO2eq by 2030.

It was noted that 66.7% of the African Countries NDCs were committed on “Business as Usual” basis, and only 18.5% were targeting policies adjustments in their climate Action Plans. Among the main identified gaps explaining Africa’s timidity and caution for better engagement in their NDCs, were the need for enhanced transparency and policy coherence frameworks as well as capacity development, resource mobilisation and research. Hence, capacity building, technology transfer and adequate funding were rated respectively at 88%, 84% and 98% of African countries as the main conditions and determinants for implementing AFOLU activities in their NDCs.

As part of its contribution towards filling these gaps, AFF is implementing, in its current project phase, activities that will contribute to improve African forestry stakeholders’ capacity for articulating forest-based climate change adaptation and mitigation in their national forestry sector, NDCs, REDD+, IAF and relevant SDGs. Among the targeted outputs of the project are the identification of opportunities and synergy outcomes provided through a re-organization of mitigation and adaptation processes in the country’ strategies and policy frameworks; as well as improved coordination, multi-stakeholders planning, governance arrangements and investments flows.

There were two other related presentations at the side event as follows:

The presentation by Mr Raymond Ngoye of COMIFAC focused on the process and structure of the Central African Forest Convergence plan and how it relates to the United Nation Strategic Plan on Forests. The presenter highlighted the six priority thematic areas and three cross-cutting areas of the second edition of the Central African Forest Convergence plan validated in 2014 for 2015 – 2025 period. He pointed the priority area four on “fighting against desertification and containing the effects of climate change” as being closely related to the theme of the side event and to the Global Forest Goal 1 of the UNSPF. Mr. Ngoye, critically analyzed and aligned all priority and crosscutting areas of the Forest Convergence plan, focusing on its vision and targeted objectives, as well as its potential contribution in meeting the Global Forest Goals (GFGs). He finally identified the lack of an operational plan and an appropriate funding mechanism as the main challenges for proper implementation of the COMIFAC Forest Convergence Plan.

Prof Jurgen Blaser shared some of his working experience on AFOLU that were based climate change mitigation and adaptation interventions in Africa and Latin America. He applauded the significant contribution of AFF activities in profiling the role of forests in addressing climate change challenges. He provided general discussions and comments based on some country experiences in implementing REDD+, and more specifically on Togo and Cameroon.

Some of the key issues raised in the discussion session were:

  • AFF’s role in empowering youth in global discussions especially those related to forestry and climate change;
  • Accessibility of AFF’s knowledge products in forestry and climate change;
  • Establishing an African fund to support development of forestry sector at various levels in order to reduce over dependence on external funding;
  • Africa’s capacity to tap on mitigation and adaptation potential opportunities in AFOLU sector;
  • Emphasizing the role of agroforestry in GHG emission; and
  • Identifying mechanisms for enhancing complementarity between agriculture and forestry in order to address the challenges of climate change and variability in Africa.

Overall, this AFF side event at UNFF 14 was an eye opener on how to position the institution to strategically voice out some of the key technical issues in the African forestry sector at the international level that need to be debated and implemented by stakeholders in Africa. The high interest of African forestry stakeholders for AFF activities was clearly demonstrated through a very fruitful discussion session, during which AFF was called to deepen and extend its actions to many more African countries. AFF will therefore continue to profile African forestry during the technical sessions of the UNFF.