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Understanding ‘Deforestation-Free’ in the African context

Last month, Proforest was in Mouila, Gabon for the Understanding Deforestation Free dialogue.

The Understanding Deforestation Free dialogue was convened by The Forests Dialogue (TFD) with support from the Gabonese Conseil National Climat, Proforest, WRI, Olam, P4F, TFA2020, Accountability Framework, EDF and WBCSD. The dialogue provided an opportunity to discuss what deforestation-free commitments mean in the highly-forested/forest dominated countries and landscapes in Central Africa. 

Photo credit | The Forests Dialogue

To date, deforestation-free discussions have focused largely on addressing deforestation in the palm oil sector in Asia and soy and cattle sectors in Latin America, and has been led predominantly by supply chain companies and international NGOs. As such, discussions have often excluded other stakeholders and regions, notably West and Central Africa. 

Photo credit | The Forests Dialogue 

In the run up to the Forest Dialogue, Proforest held ‘No Deforestation’ capacity-building workshops across the Republic of Congo, DRC, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Gabon. These workshops provided an excellent opportunity for diverse stakeholders from across the region to discuss implementation challenges, present existing initiatives and engage constructively with international stakeholders on the pathway to ‘deforestation-free’. The dialogue itself, held 14-18 October, aimed to: 

  • Capture insights and develop shared understanding on key challenges
  • Provide an understanding of the smallholder, company agriculture and livelihood context
  • Bring key local, regional, and global actors together
  • Begin to co-design potential solutions to address these commonly understood challenges,
  • Build on and inform other related processes 

 Photo credit | The Forests Dialogue

One such related process was the Africa Palm Oil Initiative (APOI), an initiative being led by Proforest which aims to support the development of a sustainable palm oil sector in Africa. Proforest presented APOI at the dialogue as an example of an existing initiative in the region, which has already developed capacity and platforms for discussion that can complement supply chain-led initiatives.

Photo credit | The Forests Dialogue

The dialogue was co-organised by Olam Gabon, for whom Proforest has previously conducted High Conservation Value (HCV) assessments, identifying over 75,000 ha of HCV areas across their concessions. Dialogue participants visited some of these HCV areas including riparian buffer zones and a 5km-wide ecological corridor consisting of forest-savannah mosaic and supporting HCVs 1, 3, 4 and 5.

Photo credit | The Forests Dialogue 

This corridor represents an important area to support mammal dispersal in the landscape and is an example of the landscape-level planning that is needed to protect HCVs and forest in Central Africa. The Forest Dialogue field trips provided participants with an ideal context within which to consider how robust and locally defined approaches to ‘deforestation free’ commitments can be implemented on-the-ground.

As co-chair of the High Carbon Stock Approach (HCSA) Protection Working Group and a member of the HCSA Steering Group, Proforest will support discussions within HCSA about its role in supporting jurisdictional and landscape-level initiatives, particularly in Central Africa, and promote greater dialogue between HCSA and stakeholders in Central Africa.

To find out more about Proforest’s work on the subject of deforestation free supply chains, read our latest briefing on Delivering company commitments to zero deforestation commodity supply chains.

Published 23.11.2017