Protecting and Restoring Africa’s Forests

Forests are the backbone of livelihoods for most communities in Africa. They provide food, medicines, wood and employment, and play a critical role in the fight against climate change. According to Global Forest Watch, countries across Africa are losing nearly 3 million hectares of primary forest every year. Since 1950, 65% of the continent’s land has been affected by degradation, and 3% of GDP is lost annually from soil and nutrient depletion on croplands. At this rate, Africa will struggle to feed its young and growing population and adapt to climate change.

Illegal logging has particularly devastating impacts for African forests and communities. It removes hardwoods from forest areas and lowers the barriers to deforestation or conversion to agriculture. Despite its impacts, the trade of illegal timber remains one of the most pervasive types of environmental crime.

Vital, restored landscapes are a sure path toward building food-, water- and energy-secure economies that work for people and the planet. That is why the African Forest Landscape Restoration Initiative (AFR100) set out to bring 100 million hectares of land into restoration by 2030.

WRI Africa provides high-quality data and analyses to inform landscape restoration and forest protection efforts and creates effective partnerships among entrepreneurs, policymakers, community organizations, local stakeholders and funders to accelerate the transformation of African landscapes. We also work to prevent illegal logging and ensure sustainable forest use.


Transparent and Accountable Forest Governance

The forest sector lacks transparency in how it addresses illegal logging and forest conversion, timber supply chains and other forest-risk commodities. There is lack of credible, timely and decision-ready information about where deforestation and forest degradation are occurring; who is responsible; and the social, biophysical and legal context in which these activities take place. Without this information, companies and financial institutions, importing companies and exporting countries alike cannot make decisions that combat illegal activities and promote sustainable forest use.

In Cameroon and the Republic of Congo, WRI works to improve access and availability of information about forests and forest-risk commodity supply chains to create a more transparent forest sector. We empower actors in government, private sector and civil society with quality information and tools so that they can make better decisions on land use and forest management.

Empowering People to Protect the Congo Basin Forests

In many countries with vital forest coverage like the Congo Basin, the management ecosystem is poorly funded and coordinated, making it hard to know exactly what’s happening in forests, and whether it’s legal or sustainable.

WRI is working with partners to provide information and analyses on deforestation dynamics across the Congo Basin to support forest sector stakeholders in the area to integrate data and insights into policy decisions, advocacy or enforcement actions.

Innovative Technologies to Fight Against Illegal Logging

Forest crime is a major obstacle in reducing tropical forest loss. Illegal logging, trade in illegally sourced timber and illegal deforestation for commodities are putting pressure on forest resources. Most of the source countries for tropical forest products are not able to effectively regulate the forest sector, mainly because inspection and enforcement agencies are understaffed, underfunded and do not have access to the right tools and technologies to control the flow of illegal timber.

WRI is working to increase transparency and good governance in the forest sector by connecting Independent Forest Monitoring (IFM) in producer countries with enforcement officials through platforms such as the Open Timber Portal. This will enable governments and enforcement agencies to implement regulations backed with data and help importers and other actors along the value chain in their due diligence process.

Strengthening Cross-border Collaboration to Tackle Illegal Logging in the Congo Basin

Despite years of efforts, illegal logging and associated trade remain a scourge in the Congo Basin. Law enforcement remains a challenge in remote regions with porous borders, accessibility challenges, limited connectivity and insufficient resources, constraining the impact of policies and programs aimed at tackling illegal logging. As a result, the practice continues to impact local communities, hurt local and national forest economies, damage ecosystems and contribute to climate change.

To increase effective law enforcement in the Congo Basin and bordering countries, it is critical to establish cross-border collaboration and adopt new forest monitoring technologies. WRI is working to improve the capacity of law enforcement bodies in the Congo Basin and adjacent countries in the use of new remote monitoring technologies to detect and stop illegal logging. WRI is also promoting inter-agency and cross-border collaboration to strengthen law enforcement efforts.

Liquid Petroleum Gas Program

More than 90% of the population in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) use wood for cooking, which is accelerating deforestation at an alarming rate. This is posing a major problem for the Virunga National Park, Africa’s oldest park. From 2016 to 2020, the park lost an estimated 17,080 hectares of forest cover. Goma City, one of the largest settlements in the Virunga landscape, has a huge demand for charcoal, further threatening the Virunga forests. The problem is escalating year after year due to population growth, poverty, unemployment, poor governance and lack of energy alternatives.

The Liquid Petroleum Gas (LPG) Program is funded by USAID and implemented by WRI and Bboxx to reduce deforestation in the forest cover around Goma city and Virunga National Park by introducing LPG as an alternative cooking energy, thereby reducing dependence on charcoal. The program will use remote sensing tools and techniques such as Global Analysis and Discovery (GLAD) alerts to monitor and measure the ecological impact of the conversion from the use of charcoal to LPG.

Restoring forests for better livelihoods and climate resilience in Africa

The UN’s Decade on Ecosystem Restoration recognizes that there are only 10 years left to restore the world's degraded land. The AFR100 initiative in Africa is part of this movement, as it is committed to restore 100 million hectares of land by 2030. So far, 30 African countries have signed onto AFR100 and committed a combined 126 million hectares of land to restore, exceeding the initiative’s initial goal. While this is a great step forward, competing uses of the land make it difficult to focus restoration efforts where they can help communities most effectively overcome climate change and rural poverty, halt deforestation and protect vital biodiversity.

WRI Africa works with stakeholders at national, regional and local level to increased economic, ecological and climate-related benefits from forest restoration by connecting stakeholders, improving capacity of restoration actors and providing economic analyses on the benefits of restoration. WRI also supports restoration initiatives in Africa through activities such as large-scale forest landscape restoration (FLR) and USAID’s forest and biodiversity support.


Building a Water-secure Future in Africa

More than 50% of urban populations in sub-Saharan Africa lack access to clean water and 80% lack access to basic sanitation services. One major reason for this is that settlements have developed quickly and informally ahead of service and infrastructure provision. Most African cities have a patchwork of formal, informal and/or self-provided water and sanitation services, such as boreholes, water vendors and self-built pit latrines that are largely unregulated. Those without access to public services — usually low-income residents — are often forced to pay more or use unsafe water sources.

WRI Africa works to create safe, reliable and affordable access to water in African cities by:

  • producing innovative data and analysis tools to help decision-makers understand current and future water risks.
  • identifying ways for policymakers to build water resilience, prevent water-related conflicts and invest in nature-based solutions.
  • guiding companies on water stewardship initiatives that can reduce financial risk and improve collective water security.
  • supporting cities to expand water access and address the root problems of water insecurity to create more resilient communities.


Urban Water Resilience in Africa

Cities in Africa need sustainable, adaptive and resilient water systems that provide communities with safe, reliable and affordable water. City leaders need to build urban water resilience to create these systems, but face intersecting barriers like watershed degradation and competing water demands.

WRI’s Urban Water Resilience initiative works to help cities overcome water challenges on multiple fronts. We provide research on urban water resilience challenges and pathways, partner with cities to enhance capacity and demonstrate solutions, and work toward collective action to improve enabling environments. This initiative is being led by WRI Africa, WRI Ross Center for Sustainable Cities, the WRI Water Program and partners.

Read more about WRI's work on urban water resilience in Africa.

Assessing the Water Resilience of Socio-economically Vulnerable Groups in Rwanda and Ethiopia

Water-related risks are especially salient across African cities, but African city leaders also have many competing development needs and are constrained by limited resources. Therefore, a clear understanding of how water risks impact the most marginalized communities is critical to prioritize deployment of resources where they are needed the most to mitigate risks and promote adaptation.

WRI is working with partners in Ethiopia and Rwanda to support water resilience by providing evidence for action to address water and climate risks in urban poor communities. This project supports cities to look at the extent of climate- and built environment-induced water risks, as well as the socio-economic vulnerabilities of most exposed groups in the context of water resilience. A socio-economic vulnerability assessment is a cornerstone approach to this work, which uses global datasets and various other mapping approaches in the project’s two pilot cities, Addis Ababa and Kigali, to provide decision-makers with the necessary evidence to prioritize strategic water resilience investments for urban poor communities in informal settlements.


Building Sustainable Food Systems in Africa

Close to 100 million people across Africa faced food insecurity in 2020 mainly because of conflicts, successive crop failures due to climate change and extreme weather events, economic shocks, and increasing food prices.

But at the same time, significant volumes of food are lost after harvest in sub-Saharan Africa each year. For grains alone, this loss is estimated at $4 billion every year, exceeding the value of the total food aid received in sub-Saharan Africa over the past decade, and equating to the annual value of cereal imports.

Reducing food loss and waste could be one of the leading strategies for Africa to achieve a sustainable food future.


Circular Food Systems for Rwanda

The world will need to feed an estimated 10 billion people by 2050, 1.5 billion of which will be in Africa. Now more than ever, it is critical to transform food systems to be more healthy, equitable, resilient, and sustainable to ensure a food-secure future.

Circular Food Systems for Rwanda aims to advance more resilient and regenerative food systems that provide positive environmental and socio-economic impacts in Africa through its two components: a development workstream that provides technical and business development support to small- and medium-sized enterprises to improve their ability to utilize circular business models; and a policy workstream, which aims to create an enabling regulatory framework, and stakeholder engagement, for catalyzing circularity in food systems transformation. This approach is positioned to deliver solutions that bundle technological innovations (like circular business models) with social innovations (such as policy and regulatory changes).

The project will be implemented in Rwanda with funding from the IKEA Foundation.

Read more about WRI's work on circular food systems in Rwanda.


Cover image credit: Peter Irungu/WRI