With Abundant Forests, Africa Looks to Grow Its Carbon Market
By Wanjohi Kabukuru
In villages dotted across the African continent, locals living in once-heavily forested regions are starting to find their land in high demand.
In Kenya’s Gazi Bay, arguably the continent’s most famous mangrove restoration project, thousands of trees have been planted thanks to nearly a decade of concerted efforts to offset carbon dioxide released by faraway governments and companies seeking to improve their climate credentials. The initiative was one of Africa’s first steps into the carbon market, where credits to emit greenhouse gases can be bought or sold.
Since then, dozens of similar schemes have sprouted across the continent, with African governments now looking to capitalize on this exploding global industry. The continent is home to huge swaths of carbon-absorbing lands, with forest covering roughly 674 million hectares, or 22.7%, of Africa, according to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization. The Cuvette-Centrale Peatlands deep in the Congo Basin are alone capable of locking in up to 30 billion tons of carbon, or three years worth of the world’s emissions.
Waterside mangrove forests, which are more effective at sucking carbon out of the air than their land counterparts, have swelled in places like Gazi. Community-led voluntary initiatives in Kenya, Mozambique and Ivory Coast that restore thousands of hectares of forest are supported by large international carbon credit organizations such as Blue Forest and the World Resources Institute.