In 2015, the African Forest Landscape Restoration Initiative (AFR100) set out to bring 100 million hectares of degraded land across its namesake continent into restoration by 2030. Commitments to the initiative from 27 different countries have now exceeded this target area by 11 million hectares.
This announcement comes after the third annual meeting of the initiative’s participating countries and 39 technical and financial partners – headed by the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), an economic development program of the African Union – held in the Kenyan capital in August, where Burkina Faso and the Republic of Sudan committed 5 million and 14.6 million hectares respectively.
The meeting preluded a Global Landscapes Forum (GLF) conference in Nairobi, in a triumphant echo of AFR100’s launch at the 2015 GLF in Paris. Momentum had begun in weeks prior, when Togo pledged 1.4 million hectares and Tanzania 5.2 million.
Along with other large-scale efforts such as Latin America’s Initiative 20×20, AFR100 is a crucial component achieving the Bonn Challenge and the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which aim to radically transform landscapes and livelihoods around the world by 2030.
AFR100 accounts for well over half of the current global commitment of 170 million hectares to the Bonn Challenge, and its success would have profound effects on food, water and energy security as well as climate change mitigation reaching far beyond the continent’s confines.
Efforts require hefty financial support, but returns on investment into the initiative are “spectacular,” says Mamadou Diakhite, NEPAD team leader for Sustainable Land and Water Management, potentially yielding up to USD 35 for every dollar put in. So far, the initiative has received more than USD 1 billion in development finance and 481 million in commitments from the private sector.
Now, countries must turn their full attention to realizing their restoration goals. “We must sustain this momentum and move from pledges to implementation,” said Wanjira Mathai, a Senior Advisor at the World Resources Institute (WRI) and a Co-Chair of the Global Restoration Council, in a press release on Monday. Mathai has been central to the initiative since it was enacted.
“This will not happen through siloed initiatives,” she said in an interview with the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) in 2016. “It will be landscape-scale work, a mosaic of restoration involving all landscapes that are productive: rivers, mountains, indigenous forests, and commercial plantations; essentially ensuring the integrity of landscapes.”