Improving the monitoring of forest and landscape restoration in africa - AFR100

Meeting restoration targets requires a holistic system to track and document progress while consistently improving management practices. Tracking restoration will help governments, local communities and NGOs show the progress made on their commitments and scale up successful projects, and positive results will inspire donors to continue investing (WRI 2020).

Measuring progress in Africa can also spotlight farmers and local champions who have restored their land through grassroots approaches. But their successes can be replicated only if practitioners and decision makers understand land restoration’s impacts on people and the environment.

 

Prominent examples include farmer managed natural regeneration and assisted natural regeneration in degraded regions. Farmers have increased tree density on farms and pastureland, leading to improvements in household socio-economic conditions (Reij and Garrity 2016).

 

Thirty African governments have now committed to restoring deforested and degraded lands as part of global restoration initiatives, including the Bonn Challenge and the New York Declaration on Forests. Several countries, such as Malawi and Madagascar, have developed national restoration strategies, aligning stakeholders from across ministries and industries around a common framework on FLR. Successful implementation will contribute to large-scale increases in tree cover and tangible improvements in environmental conditions (Temperton et al. 2019). At the regional level, the Africa-led AFR100 initiative, under the leadership of the African Union Development Agency-New Partnership for African Development (AUDA-NEPAD), aims to restore 100 million hectares of deforested and degraded landscapes across the continent by 2030.

 

But to achieve these ambitious pledges, participants need to understand what has already been done, and to design and implement monitoring systems that track progress in achieving commitments and plans (Hanson et al. 2015; Cristales et al. 2020). Monitoring forest and landscape restoration is, however, not as simple as it may sound (Reytar et al. 2020). Planting and growing trees is just the beginning. It is essential to track tree survival and growth, as well as trees’ ability to store carbon and to provide nutritional, economic, biodiversity and other environmental benefits.

 

Challenges in monitoring restoration

Meeting restoration targets requires a holistic system to track and document progress while consistently improving management practices. Tracking restoration will help governments, local communities and NGOs show the progress made on their commitments and scale up successful projects, and positive results will inspire donors to continue investing (WRI 2020). Measuring progress in Africa can also spotlight farmers and local champions who have restored their land through grassroots approaches. But their successes can be replicated only if practitioners and decision makers understand land restoration’s impacts on people and the environment.

 

With tools such as the Restoration Opportunity Assessment Methodology (ROAM) and the Rapid Restoration Diagnostic (RRD), many African countries have accurately and efficiently mapped trees and assessed opportunities, both nationally and within individual landscapes. As a result, AFR100 restoration commitments have significantly grown and gained momentum (Akinnifesi 2018). However, before starting restoration work, countries must assess the current state of their landscapes to establish a baseline for planning and monitoring progress. Unfortunately, most existing forest monitoring systems were tailored to tracking deforestation, not restoration. The remote sensing techniques that they use fail to detect small or scattered trees, or they assess only tree cover and fail to include the benefits that those trees provide. Most importantly, these systems are often too expensive to operate at scale (Reytar et al. 2020).

 

Several conventional monitoring frameworks and datasets are relevant to forest and landscape restoration in Africa. They include the Food and Agriculture Organization’s Forest Resources Assessment and the IUCN-led Restoration Barometer, both of which compile self-reported statistics from government sources. Freely accessible satellite imagery has also increased the capacity of some African countries to monitor changes in land use (Sloan and Sayer 2015). However, these datasets suffer from a lack of consistency and completeness across entire countries and time spans (Brink and Eva 2009). Furthermore, within countries, data for monitoring restoration is often fragmented and scattered throughout different institutions and ministries, which makes it difficult to comprehensively assess progress.

 

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