August 9, 2022

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IUCN’s Regional Head of Land Systems paints African Continent’s Landscape Restoration and backs Blockchain Innovations as key to access to finance among smallholder farmers

Photo taken in Rwanda./IUCN

By Ange de la Victoire DUSABEMUNGU

Mr. Charles Karangwa, the Regional Head of Land systems in Africa and Rwanda Country Representative of the International Union of Conservation of Nature (IUCN) asserted on Thursday, that there is a great political momentum in Africa than ever before, to invest in the landscape approach, especially focusing on landscape restoration.

Mr. Karangwa was speaking at a virtual session which took place on Thursday, 24 February 2022 under the theme “”Harnessing Landscapes at Scale to Maximise Carbon Returns”

The session was organized as part of the Corporate Investments into Forestry & Biodiversity conference which took place from 23rd-24th February 2022.

Mr. Charles Karangwa who was speaking from Lilongwe, Malawi, where he is working from this week said that unlike in the past, Africa now knows where it needs to step up its efforts in Landscape Restoration and that in addition to the political will, Africans also have changed their mind-sets in favour of the continent’s commitment of restoring 100 million hectares of degraded land by 2030.

He explained that there’s quite a diversity of investments in different landscapes adding that in the last couple of years, there have been quite a lot of investments in landscape Restoration “and IUCN have been doing a lot of work to identify opportunities for various investors.”

“As we speak now, about 800 million hectares on the continent are available for restoration opportunities,” He said.

“But before I go into that, I just wanted to highlight that there is a greater political momentum in Africa than ever before, to invest in the landscape approach, especially focusing on landscape restoration” He added.And this is not only for agricultural land, it’s also for other types of land use from forest to agriculture, to farming, pastoralism among others.” Mr. Karangwa explains.

Charles Karangwa, an experienced environmentalist who has dedicated his life to nature conservation.

To highlight the political momentum in Africa, Mr. Karangwa reminded that the continent has launched “what we call FLR 100, which is basically a pan Africa initiative to restore 100 million hectares of degraded land by 2030 and about 32 countries have already joined that momentum by committing to restore 128 million already by 2030.

“So these are political momentum. So there’s a whole political will from southern Africa to Eastern Africa, to central and West Africa with the Northern Africa region. And countries like Ethiopia, expressed interest to bring under restoration 18 million hectares by 2030.” Karangwa explained.

He also gave example of small countries like Rwanda that has committed to restore 2 million hectares of degraded land

Commenting on Restoration returns, Mr. Karangwa revealed that they have just completed a number of scoping on the continent in Sub Saharan Africa region, and identified about 10 Very successful business cases of gains that are happening on the continent.

“I will mention a couple of them. One of them is the work that is being done in cotton production. In Ghana, for example, through regenerative agriculture, it’s very clear that there is a very significant increase: 80% of increasing production of cocoa by just applying agroforestry and cocoa together, because it increased the soil health, but also biodiversity etc. Not only that, if you look at cocoa, some companies reported a very significant increase, actually, up to 80% of increase in production.

Espresso: Creator: Ina Peters | Credit: Getty Images
Copyright: (c) Ina Peters

“So, these are business cases, you see that they ‘re functioning landscapes. Now I can talk about coffee by taking the example of Espresso, which has actually increased production from 200% to 300% of production of coffee by just applying regenerative agricultural practices of mixing, soil management and agroforestry and restoration.” Mr. Karangwa explained

“Now, let’s go to Timber, which is a very big market opportunity on the continent. So, we are talking about 400 million hectares available bare land for restoration with timber species that we can name on the continent. So, some countries have already identified this, and they are investing in that. And even beyond just getting by with these cash crops like coffee, or tea, you can even speak to horticulture vegetable production on the continent. So there’s quite a huge opportunity there. If you invest in regenerative, sustainable agricultural mechanisms, or restoration, forest landscape restoration, it’s very clear that you can easily get your return back.” He added

Mr. Karangwa finds that there are a number of cases even at a very small holder farmer through what is called small forestry schemes.


PHOTO: The New Times | Rwanda
Govt to allocate 80 per cent of state forests to private operators

“For example, in Rwanda, the government has decided to put a lot of efforts in what we call participatory forest management, you have 1, or 2 hectares of forest, people come together brings 100, acres, put that share in a bank, and it’s very easy to access capital finance in other investments. So there’s already examples. But more importantly, there are opportunities in case corporations are interested to invest in landscape restoration and other approaches.” He noted.

Responding to questions from the Audience, Mr. Karangwa was asked which country is doing better in landscape restoration in the African continent and how other countries could learn from it?

He responded saying that “It is a matter of the will, and then the awareness to be able to take action on the ground.”

“So, we have been looking at a couple of these commitments that countries have made across Africa and recently, we completed an assessment of Ethiopia, how the Ethiopia is doing according to their 18 million commitments and we have just found out that by end of 2020, Ethiopia was able to bring under restoration about 15 million hectares between 2011 and 2020. That’s in 10 years.

And this is span across natural regeneration of degraded mountains, to agroforestry, to Woodlots plantation in the highlands, to turning degraded land into coffee plantations etc. So, this is one case that we are looking at and there’s quite a number of investors who are also part of that movement.” Mr. Charles Karangwa explained

READ ALSO: IUCN Africa’s Regional Head of Land Systems congratulates Malawi’s efforts in FLR


Land restoration in Ethiopia pays off but
climate change necessitates many strategies –Addis Herald

“Another country I’ve also been assessing was Rwanda, which committed to restore 2 million hectares in 2011. In 2018, the country has already reported 750,000 hectares under restoration, including Natural Park that was completely degraded and now is back. It has been restored with indigenous species biodiversity; it is a really driven kind of motivation etc.” He added.

On the issue of blockchain innovations, Mr. Karangwa emphasised that there are a lot of opportunities for innovation in Africa adding that blockchain definitely presents a great innovative opportunity because one can easily create a very transparent way of accessing payments for millions of farmers who are engaged into large scale restoration actions, among others.

“So, it can be easily linked with a carbon market, it can easily link with innovative financial access mechanisms and financial flows.” He explained

“So, I have a couple of projects that I’m working on in Africa with my colleagues at IUCN to deploy some of the FLR blockchain, in Uganda and Cameroon. So, I look forward to exchanging with you, on those projects that we are piloting, we call them pipes, but there are potentials for scale into this and you can connect the dots.” He said.

 “So, Landscape production at scale costs a lot of investment and it shouldn’t be the top down because I have money, and I will tell people what to do. But it should be that I have resources, you have resources, and can we meet and sit on the table to find out how we solve this problem and this is happening between landowners and investors. It’s happening across the continent.” Mr. Charles Karangwa concluded.

You can also read: IUCN’s Regional Head of Land Systems, Malawi Minister of natural resources and climate change discuss Landscape Restoration

About Key Political momentum in Africa:

The continent has so far committed through AFR100, a panafrican Forest landscape Restoration Initiatives aiming at restoring 100million ha by 2030. Today about 32 countries have committed 128 million ha already and the numbers are still growing. Investment Opportunities at Landscape Level: A recent report commissioned by IUCN and developed by VIVID economics demonstrated that each dollar invested in landscape restoration can generate 20-30 dollars in return.

For example in Regenerative agriculture: 80% increase  in Cotton reported by Olam, 60% increase in cocoa yields by Touton, 200-300% increase in coffee production by NESPRESSO and 50% expected increase in yields reported by TWIGA in kenya by just investing in regenerative agriculture.
Beyond increase in yields, the study revealed that regenerative agriculture can increase income of smallholder farmers by  270%. 


Outside agribusiness , Hydro electricity companies in sub saharan africa are facing closure of plants due to siltation and sediments in rivers lowering electricity production by 30% annually. Investing in Forest landscape restoration upstreams can not only reduce costs of production but at the same time create more jobs for communities through Payment for ecosystem services. This is being done in countries like Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda to name few. 


Timber industry: a recent study implemented by IUCN in East Africa showed that there is an imbalance of imports of laminated timber products. One can question why? Huge opportunities for bamboo plantations to produce  timber exist. This is the case for high value timber species across East Africa which may provide an alternative to deforestation in the Congo Basin forests and other countries. 

Africa has  800 million hectares of land to be restored! 60% of this land is potential for agriculture while 40% is suitable for afforestation and riparian forests including urban forest areas.

In Nyabishunguru (Rwanda), waterways are protected by grasses and check dams


Key takeaways:

Opportunities exist for both short term, medium and long term corporate investments.

Forest landscape restoration will hugely contribute to the achievement of the Paris agreement to keep the temperature to 1.5 but action needs to be taken at scale.

There is a need for investments through CSR but mostly action at scale will require capital investments in landscape based supply chains through sustainable regenerative agriculture, sustainable timber production using diversity of indiginous species, and other ecosystem services such as water and carbon.

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