Towards a pan-African restoration exchange: Cameroon and Madagascar journey together

By Malin Elsen, Sven Schuppener, Désiré Tchigankong, and Joary Niaina Andriamiharimanana | Cameroon, Madagascar, GIZ

Two weeks after Malagasy Forest Landscape Restoration experts came to Yaoundé, their Cameroonian counterparts visited Madagascar to intensify their South-South exchange on Forest and Landscape Restoration (FLR) in Africa.

The African Union Development Agency (AUDA-NEPAD) is currently piloting targeted exchanges between member countries of the African Forest Landscape Restoration Initiative (AFR100) to foster peer-learning on restoration. “Cameroon is currently drafting its national FLR strategy, and our role as AFR100 Secretariat is to support this process”, AUDA-NEPAD’s Mamadou Diakhité explains.

Madagascar is an ideal peer for Cameroon: The island country has pioneered the restoration movement by finalizing its national strategy in 2017 and advancing multisectoral and multilevel governance on the ground. To attain its commitment to restore 4 million hectares of degraded land, Madagascar established an intersectoral dialogue between relevant ministries and partners and created framework documents for the implementation of restoration.

Watersheds and Mangroves

The northwestern watersheds and mangroves of Boeny were the first sites the Cameroonian delegation inspected. Climbing down rocky hills reforested by farmers and wading in the slick mud between young mangrove saplings, Mamy Arthur Randriamanana, mangrove forest restoration expert and local fisherman, pointed out crabs busily moving around. “The crab populations so vital to sustaining local fisheries returned half a year after we restored these mangroves”, he says. Jean Jacques Jaozandry from the Ministry of Environment appreciated the questions by the Cameroonians. “The exchange helps us to move ahead with working on monitoring these ecosystem services for local fishermen."

Integrated restoration management

For Valérie Ramahavalisoa, head of the watershed and soil conservation department, the visit in Boeny confirms that a landscape approach tha goes beyond the project scale is crucial to scale up existing restoration approaches sustainably. “It is true that punctual interventions can lead to results, but if we intensify our rice cultivation in the valleys without protecting the water source and the hills upstream, the cultivation will silt up because of soil erosion,” she explains and adds that “this is the advantage of thinking in a landscape approach".

"In Cameroon, we will have to involve all the sectors and not only environment and forestry. Land tenure and use, agriculture, livestock - all these issues require an integrated approach”, explains Christophe Bring, national FLR focal point for Cameroon. “This is what became clear to us in Madagascar.” Therefore, he announced, Cameroon will move from "Forest Landscape Restoration” to “Forest and Landscape Restoration” to stress that revitalizing land is more than just planting trees.

Progress on the national Cameroonian FLR Strategy

The exchanges in Boeny and Tana helped the Cameroonian delegation to identify key questions about their strategy: Is all necessary data available? How could the different agroecological zones in Cameroon be included in a FLR land management approach?

Bring finds that “the great challenge for Cameroon is to include different tools related to environmental, forest, land-use planning and poverty reduction into our strategy”. The trip culminated in late-night calls and last-minute changes to the Cameroonian strategy. The Malagasy experts accompanied these discussions, sharing their experience with developing a common vision and integrating FLR into each ministry’s budgets.

Experts from both countries agreed that the data that Cameroon already had would suffice to finalize its national strategy, but governance and land-use management require more attention. The group identified the design of secure land tenure options and the promotion of better land use planning as two bedrocks of successful restoration on the ground: Favourable tenure conditions and spatial planning “catalyze large scale FLR actions and should be promoted by national and regional FLR committees”, finds Mrs. Rajenarison, head of the Development Department at the Malagasy Ministry of Land Use Planning.

Towards a pan-African restoration exchange

“I am satisfied with this first exchange, but I am sure that we can make it even more productive”, says Julien Noel Rakotoarisoa, national FLR focal point for Madagascar. The Cameroonian-Malagasy team recommends identifying common problems across AFR100 countries in preparation for the next exchange to intensify the technical discussions. “How can reforestation initiatives by individuals be reinforced communally, secured in the long-term and be economically feasible even for the youth? All of these questions still need an answer,” adds Jules Leonel Tadong Saa from the Cameroonian ministry of economic planning and regional development.

For Mikhail Nelson Mvongo Mkene from the Cameroonian Ministry of Forests and Wildlife, South-South exchanges between AFR100 countries present a real opportunity to jointly design restoration projects. Becuse both countries face similar challenges, such as the sustainable management of pasture and fires,  Madagascar and Cameroon should work to formulate a joint project. More broadly, a South-South exchange platform serves as an accelerator for technical ideas and political engagement.

Such thematic exchange and other forms of peer learning should be managed and promoted by the AFR100 Secretariat at AUDA-NEPAD. It could include the creation of a pool of restoration experts at the national, regional and local levels. “Specialists from one country could be paired with interested colleagues from another country. A bush fire management professional, for instance, can share their very specific technical knowledge”, GIZ’s Malin Elsen concludes. She and her colleagues believe that these experts could develop hands-on solutions and accompany policy makers in other countries to advance specific restoration practices.