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This blog was originally published by the Landscape Resilience Fund.

What role can climate finance play in advancing climate adaptation in Africa? This was the central question at the recent UNFCCC Africa Climate Week 2022, held in Libreville, Gabon. With COP27 on the horizon and being touted as the “Adaptation COP,” can we expect a focus on Africa to dominate discussions? And if so, what can certain topics from Africa Climate Week tell us about what is to come in Cairo?

A landscape and nature-first approach to climate finance

In the throng of high level workshops and events, the Landscape Resilience Fund (LRF) was delighted to host a panel side event: Landscape and community-first approaches to climate finance. The panel unpacked the challenges, outlined what innovative financing mechanisms are already in place and explored case studies in an engaging and interactive session.

“Climate action starts from the community level and landscape level: we need to understand what is required and what is available.” Moderator Ako Charlotte Eyong, Climate Change and Green Growth Officer at the African Development Bank Group, opened the panel, outlining the estimated USD 1.3-1.6 trillion in climate finance that is required for African nations to meet their international climate targets.

Across Africa, rural communities rely mostly on rain-fed agriculture, meaning rural farmers and national food systems are vulnerable to climate shocks like drought and flood. According to Paxina Chileshe-Toe, Regional Climate and Environment Specialist for East and Southern Africa at IFAD, this presents opportunities as well as challenges: “We now know we need to build in climate resilience and mitigation…we can’t do our rural development work without seeing it through the climate lens. Our projects need to be climate-resilient.”

Understanding local requirements

When looking at the pipeline of a whole host of climate solutions on the African continent, the one constant is complexity. When working across large areas, where multiple drivers dictate the activities of communities, it’s vital to work with the people who call these landscapes home.

Roland Hunter, Senior Sourcing Manager of Nature Based Solutions at South Pole, described how a landscape-first approach could turn our current value system on its head, meaning forests or mangroves are more valuable for the ecosystem services they provide. Roland continued: “In each culture context we need to get elbows deep in that landscape. Working with the human system is the entry point to that landscape.”

Amadou Fall, representative for the LRF, highlighted the complexity of climate finance, especially when it comes to investing in SMEs with scalable climate adaptation potential: “At the pre-investment stage, you need to have the right institutional and environmental guidelines as many SMEs speak about lacking access to finance. The LRF provides this type of support.”

With the cost of adapting to extreme weather growing exponentially in developing countries, the LRF is seeking to mobilise finance for climate adaptation solutions that support sustainable agricultural and forestry supply chains and that improve the resilience of smallholder farmers in developing countries. These farmers are the bedrock of entire national food systems – smallholder farmers produce the overwhelming majority of food and agricultural output in developing nations. This is one of the reasons why cocoa innovator, Koa, recently received an investment from the LRF to set up a new processing facility in Ghana. This facility will support climate resilience and create additional income for up to 10,000 smallholder farmers.

Our forest, our wealth, our future

The panel also offered insights into the role of REDD+ (a UN framework for reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation). Tania Cencetti, Nature Based Solutions Manager at Carbonsink, drew attention to the benefits of the long-term income stream that REDD+ offers: “the minimum of 30 years [leaves] projects less vulnerable to the demands of donor funding.”

In the absence of alternative revenue streams, such as commercial agriculture or forestry, the Yambone Initiative in Chipanje Chetu is using the REDD+ mechanism to generate income for the local Yao communities, achieving benefits for both people and planet. Emily During, manager of this community conservation initiative in northern Mozambique, stated: “We have come to realise that conservation efforts will succeed only if the community that occupies the landscape succeeds with them. The community owns these forests, and this is their REDD+ project.”

The indigenous miombo woodlands of Chipanje Chetu are still pristine, hosting a healthy variety of wildlife, including lions, leopards, elephants, and African wild dogs among many other important species. This is currently due to the woodlands’ remote location and the low level of interest it has attracted from the national development agenda. Change, however, is underway: the forest is threatened by the area’s growing population. The communities who live on the forest boundary are shifting agricultural activities to within the forest, which risks causing deforestation.

The Yambone Initiative has created employment opportunities for more than 100 community members in anti-poaching, wild-fire control, building, mechanics, hospitality, community co-ordination and administrative, with 40 part-time or seasonal positions created as well. This makes the project the largest employer in the district, bringing skills and alternative livelihoods to the area.

“Chipanje Chetu,” Emily concluded, “…means: our forest, our wealth, our future. It is particularly moving to me that this is not just a name, but a statement of hope and of the value they see in their forest. More than 20 years later, the community now stands to receive meaningful benefit from the extensive natural resources that they have conserved over time… I cannot wait to see what the community does with their forest, their wealth and their future.”

Scaling climate finance

The huge potential in a green and resilient African continent, even against the backdrop of the extreme weather caused by climate change, was on full display at Africa Climate Week 2022. The complexities of a landscape- and community-first approach to conservation also bring significant benefits which can and must be scaled. As we look ahead to COP27 in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, it is more important than ever to think on the landscape and community level: collaborating, applying lessons learned and seeing many more impactful initiatives, SMEs and projects which will have real climate impact.

Panelists: Tania Cencetti from Carbonsink; Amadou Fall from the Landscape Resilience Fund (LRF), Emily During from the Yambone initiative, Ako Charlotte Eyong from the African Development Bank Group, Paxine Chileshe-Toe from International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and Roland Hunter from South Pole all joined for an engaging and interactive session.