UNEP/Frank Machiya
Photo UNEP/Frank Machiya. UN World Restoration Flagship Regreening Africa. Ethiopia.

Nairobi, 13 February 2024 – Desertification affects around 45 per cent of Africa’s land, with 55 per cent of this area at ‘high’ or ‘very high’ risk of further degradation. Regreening Africa – a research-in-development initiative co-led by the Center for International Forestry Research and World Agroforestry (CIFOR-ICRAF) with a range of partners – is expected to bring 5 million hectares under restoration by 2030, boosting biodiversity and supporting local communities. Regreening Africa was today named as one of seven UN World Restoration Flagships.

The initiative is already regreening an area of over 350,000 hectares across Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Mali, Niger, Rwanda, Senegal, and Somalia by reaching more than 607,000 households through training and tree growing efforts, adopting new regreening practices or intensifying existing ones.

Over Regreening Africa’s first programme period, the number of households earning additional income from trees increased from under 600 to over 1,500, while the sale of tree-related products increased from 8 to 20 per cent, especially in Ghana and Mali.

The World Restoration Flagship awards are part of the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration – led by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO) – which aims to prevent, halt, and reverse the degradation of ecosystems on every continent and in every ocean. The awards track notable initiatives following global commitments to restore one billion hectares – an area larger than China. The award for the Regreening Africa initiative was announced by UNEP Goodwill Ambassador and musician, Rocky Dawuni.

“Over half of productive lands in Africa are degraded, with climate change exacerbating this challenge,” said Inger Andersen, Executive Director of UNEP. “The good news is restoration works and can bring major benefits to communities – from supporting smallholder famers to helping raise household incomes. As people begin to quickly recognize the benefits of ecosystem restoration, it makes perfect sense to extend regreening practices to more lands and kickstart a renaissance of nature.”

With current funding, Regreening Africa is expected to restore an additional one million hectares by 2030. With its recognition as a UN World Restoration Flagship, the initiative will now be eligible for technical and financial UN assistance. With this extra support, Regreening Africa now plans to bring almost five million hectares under restoration, an area twice the size of Rwanda.

“Restoring land – bringing back trees, shrubs and grasses, building and conserving soils and water – is critical to improving ecosystem function and supporting livelihoods and food security,” said Dr Éliane Ubaljoro, CEO of CIFOR-ICRAF.  “Regreening Africa is leading the way in this restoration effort, matching practices to local contexts, ensuring strong community engagement and facilitating collective learning and adaptation centered around evidence. We hope the recognition as a global restoration flagship will further propel these efforts.”

The success of the initiative’s land restoration is observed and monitored through regular surveys, and through the use of the Regreening citizen science app. Several participating countries are exceeding 50 per cent of their hectare target already, including Ghana, Mali, and Somalia. Others still need to catch up by bringing more areas under successful restoration.

Efforts are expected to contribute to a more stable climate worldwide – tree covered landscapes in Africa's semi-arid drylands, while not as carbon rich as wetter areas, can hold 1.54 metric tonnes or more of carbon per hectare according to a recent article in Nature. Tree species in the drylands have biomass both above and below ground, developing underground taproots. Restoration is underway on more than 352,500 hectares to date, which will result in many additional tonnes of CO2 equivalent per hectare per year being stored below and above ground.

As smallholder farmers differ in their needs, opportunities, and constraints, a key step in addressing land degradation is to start from a good understanding of which restoration options work best where, and for whom. Working across multiple countries assists in identifying successful and scalable local solutions, leverage existing expertise and resources -including local knowledge - and ensuring interventions are appropriate to local contexts. These include tree planting and growing, home gardening with trees, pastoral-managed natural regeneration, assisted natural regeneration, farmer-managed natural regeneration, soil, and water conservation practices, and more.

As a UN World Restoration Flagship, Regreening Africa is recognized as one of the best examples of large-scale and long-term ecosystem restoration in any country or region, embodying the 10 Restoration Principles of the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration. The announcement of seven new World Restoration Flagships was made ahead of the 6th UN Environment Assembly (UNEA-6), to be held from 26 February to 1 March, 2024. The Assembly will convene the world’s Environment Ministers in Nairobi, Kenya to address the triple planetary crisis of climate change, nature and biodiversity loss, and pollution and waste.

Photos by UNEP/Frank Machiya. UN World Restoration Flagship Regreening Africa. Ethiopia.

📸 Photos and footage: You can use stills and videos from this database, please credit photographers and organizations accordingly.

ℹ️ About the partner organizations:

The UN General Assembly has declared 2021–2030 a UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration. Led by the UN Environment Programme and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN, together with the support of partners, it is designed to prevent, halt, and reverse the loss and degradation of ecosystems worldwide. It aims at reviving billions of hectares, covering terrestrial as well as aquatic ecosystems. A global call to action, the UN Decade draws together political support, scientific research, and financial muscle to massively scale up restoration.

Countries have already promised to restore 1 billion hectares – an area larger than China – as part of their commitments to the Paris Climate Agreement, the Aichi targets for biodiversity, the Land Degradation Neutrality targets and the Bonn Challenge. However, little is known about the progress or quality of this restoration. With the World Restoration Flagships, the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration is honouring the best examples of large-scale and long-term ecosystem restoration in any country or region, embodying the 10 Restoration Principles of the UN Decade. Progress of all World Restoration Flagships will be transparently monitored through the Framework for Ecosystem Restoration Monitoring, the UN Decade’s platform for keeping track of global restoration efforts.

UNEP is the leading global voice on the environment. It provides leadership and encourages partnership in caring for the environment by inspiring, informing and enabling nations and peoples to improve their quality of life without compromising that of future generations.

FAO is a specialized agency of the United Nations that leads international efforts to defeat hunger. Its goal is to achieve food security for all and make sure that people have regular access to enough high-quality food to lead active healthy lives. With over 194-Member Nations, FAO works in over 130 countries worldwide.

The vision of Regreening Africa is to mobilise and work with a critical mass of diverse partners to scale-up locally appropriate ways of integrating trees into agricultural systems, to successfully reverse land degradation across Africa.

The Center for International Forestry Research and World Agroforestry (CIFOR- ICRAF) led the consortium in the implementation of Regreening Africa. The organization harnesses the power of trees, forests, and agroforestry landscapes to address the most pressing global challenges of our time - biodiversity loss, climate change, food security, livelihoods, and inequity. It is a world-class research institution which delivers actionable evidence and solutions to transform the way land and renewable resources are used, and how food is produced.

Sahel Eco – Sahel Ecology, Economy and Ecoute (listen) – was founded in April 2004 as national NGO based in Mali with the mission to promote inclusive socio-economic development which is respectful of the environment and meets the needs of present and future generations in the Sahel. Sahel Eco's work focuses on:

  1. Promoting agroforestry and other agro-ecological farming techniques, in particular farmer managed natural regeneration (FMNR), community-based land and forest management, as well as restoration and protection initiatives.
  2. Supporting development of local income-generating activities by promoting sustainable businesses along agroforestry value chains: e.g., by processing and marketing shea butter and other non-timber forest products (NTFP); vegetable gardening, facilitating access to inclusive financing through self-managed savings and credit groups, and building rural infrastructure. Sahel Eco equips local people with necessary skills through training of local trainers that replicate the knowledge to their peer producers via exposure visits, video, and radio messages. Since 2004, Sahel Eco has extended the reach of its interventions to more than 426 villages in 51 rural communities in nine districts of the regions of Sikasso, Ségou and Mopti in Mali. Their work is making communities more resilient to climate hazards and other shocks. It helps them to sustainably manage the natural resources that their livelihoods depend on, while at the same time developing and diversifying the rural economy.

CARE Nederland is part of CARE, an international development organization active in more than 100 countries worldwide. Originating from American food aid to Europe after the Second World War, it has been committed for almost 80 years to those who need it most. CARE supports people in the most difficult places in the world in building a better life. It is investing in resilient livelihoods at scale and to support relevant policies / institutional development with the private sector and local, regional, and national governments. Support to community-based, gender transformative approaches and inclusion continues to receive priority. CARE Nederland coordinates the CARE Climate Justice Center, which supports CARE International on Locally Led Adaptation and Mitigation.

Catholic Relief Services is the official international humanitarian agency of the Catholic community in the United States. The agency alleviates suffering and provides assistance to people in need in more than 100 countries, without regard to race, religion or nationality. CRS’ relief and development work are accomplished through programs of emergency response, HIV, health, agriculture, education, microfinance, and peacebuilding.

Oxfam is a global movement of people fighting against inequality to end poverty and injustice. In 2020, the global confederation had 20 member organizations, or affiliates in 70 countries, with more than 3,600 partners and with 19.5 million people (including 7.8 million in Africa). Oxfam is engaged in a large-scale process of mobilizing different stakeholders to implement innovative practices. One of the successes is the establishment of a vast network of well-structured and self- managed Savings for Change (EPC) groups and a platform for the introduction of innovative approaches to empowerment, economics, and politics of women.

World Vision implemented Regreening Africa in Kenya, Rwanda, Somaliland, Senegal, Ghana, and Niger and supported in Ethiopia and Mali. Australia’s largest charity, World Vision has been driven by over two million Australian donors over the past 50 years, community members, staff and valued partners who mobilize to make a real and lasting difference in lives around the world. Together, it tackles the root causes of poverty and transform lives through development, relief, and advocacy work. It is part of a global movement, a Christian humanitarian organisation that provides short and long-term assistance to more than 100 million people worldwide.

✉️  For more information, please contact: News desk, UN Environment Programme[email protected]

✉️ To contact the initiative: 

  • CIFOR-ICRAF: Lalani Azzura, Head of Global Outreach and Engagement, [email protected]
  • Oxfam: Souleymane Fassoum Doumbia, Regreening programme coordinator Mali, [email protected]
  • World Vision: Davis Wamawungo, Manager, Africa Region (Low Income Countries), [email protected]
  • Sahel Eco: Pierre Dembele, Executive Secretary Sahel Eco, +223-20203099/+223-76239780, [email protected]

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