The Win-Win of Forest Protection: Enhancing Lives While Slowing Climate Change

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The FINANCIAL — The 21st century has seen a surge in governments’ strategic protection of forests, for good reason. Forest protection enhances people’s lives while slowing climate change by enabling trees, soil and grasslands to perform their natural functions of removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. These nature-based solutions – noted in 137 of 165 Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) under the Paris Agreement – provide up to 37% of the emission reductions needed by 2030 to keep global temperature rise below 2 degrees Celsius over pre-Industrial levels, World Bank notes.

Investors have taken note of this double win. The World Bank’s $3.7 billion portfolio of 102 forest projects supports systemic, transformative engagement. Each project is specific to a community and location in countries including Ghana, Indonesia, Lao Peoples Democratic Republic, Mexico, Mozambique, Nepal, Vietnam and Zambia. Overall, the Bank supports forest programs in more than 50 countries.

For example, in Indonesia, a Bank program in the Jambi province is reducing emissions from unsustainable land use while promoting alternative livelihoods such as sustainable fisheries, livestock and service industries that help take pressure off the province’s primary forests and peatlands.

Agus Rizal, Head of Jambi’s Crop Agency, says farmers in Jambi need to diversify and grow crops that are more sustainable.

“Coffee and rubber are some good sustainable crop alternatives,” he says. “If cultivated well, these can also generate even more money than palm oil. However, access to market for these commodities remains a challenge, and that’s one area that [the program] can help.”

In Burkina Faso, the Ministry of Environment, Green Economy and Climate Change is partnering with the World Bank to reduce emissions by improving landscape management and working with the private sector to develop low-emission value chains that focus on non-timber forest products such as shea butter, which provide additional revenue to women in forest communities, as well as solutions like biodigesters that reduce emissions from energy and produce improved compost, World Bank notes.

In Ghana, the government is taking pressure off forests in its North East region with a Bank project that is building processing facilities for gari (cassava flour) and shea butter to help create jobs and generate income. Women in rural communities who formerly would cut down trees to make charcoal to sell now have new ways to earn money by selling their goods in the local market and beyond.

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“When communities participate in agriculture it lifts their income. The trees will be spared,” says Dr. Kwaku Afriyie, Ghana’s Minister of Environment, Science, Technology and Innovation.

As the world’s second-largest cocoa producer, Ghana’s cocoa crop is essential to its economy. However, cocoa production threatens forests in its southeast and western regions. A government project aims to help some 140,000 Ghanaian farmers produce cocoa more sustainably, support cocoa farms and make farming communities’ income streams more predictable. This is part of a longer-term government strategy to make the cocoa sector more socially and economically sustainable.

Sustainable cocoa farmers in Ghana will also benefit from future payments for emissions reductions thanks to an agreement with the World Bank 10 years in the making that rewards community efforts to reduce carbon emissions from deforestation and forest degradation.

“Ghana has gone through a 10-year period of readiness. We have built structures that make sure that our discussions on landscape management [and] on climate change are transparent, accountable, inclusive and very responsible on turning out verified emission reductions,” says Roselyn Adjei, Director of Climate Change, Forestry Commission, Ghana.

Ghana is one of 14 countries that have signed landmark agreements with the Bank that reward community efforts to reduce carbon emissions by tackling deforestation and forest degradation. Together, these Emission Reductions Payment Agreements have unlocked nearly $670 million in results-based financing from the Bank’s Forest Carbon Partnership Facility Carbon Fund.

In Nepal, an emissions reduction program in the country’s agriculture-dominated yet natural resource-rich Terai Arc Landscape, which is home to endangered wildlife including Bengal Tiger, Asian Elephant and one horned Rhino, will generate jobs, promote sustainable livelihoods, sustain forest cover and curb emissions.

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“Forests in the Terai region provide ecosystems services that are critical for climate mitigation and resilience, including biodiversity conservation, watershed protection, and drought and flood mitigation,” says Pem Kandel, Secretary for Nepal’s Ministry of Forests and Environment. “This program will help us to protect the remaining forests that are inextricably linked to the well-being of many communities here and across the country.”

6 Million People Benefit from Forest Action

During the implementation of the World Bank Group’s Forest Action Plan (2016-2020), nearly 6 million people benefited from World Bank forest and land management projects, including 1.1 million women and 225,000 Indigenous People.

In addition, during this time some 960,000 people adopted sustainable landscape management practices, such as protecting vulnerable lands, controlling soil erosion, improving soil water storage and managing soil in a way that boosts carbon sequestration and fertility. World Bank engagement has brought these benefits to 94 million acres (38 million hectares) around the globe according to World Bank.

Forest and land management programs not only benefit the environment, they also formalize landholding rights for the communities they serve. An estimated 245,000 people gained forest use or ownership rights, including 61,000 women.

In Eastern Province, Zambia, the majority of the 1.7 million people depend on agriculture, forests and wildlife, yet these resources are being lost at a fast pace due to climate change, coupled with unsustainable practices of land clearing for agriculture and charcoal burning.

To address these urgent challenges, the World Bank is supporting Zambia to improve sustainable land management, diversify livelihoods options available to rural commodities, including climate-smart agriculture and forest-based livelihoods, and reduce deforestation.

“My chiefdom, like many other areas in Eastern Province, has been affected by deforestation. I am happy that the project will help us mitigate the effects of climate change as a result of deforestation” said Senior Chief Lwembe of Nyimba District.

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