This is a study tour in challenge and opportunity, and for that, Uganda is our best teacher.
Climate change is one of the most urgent challenges facing our world today. Fortunately, there are many opportunities to tackle this challenge, and the time is ripe on the tailwinds of the Paris Climate Agreement One of the most cost-effective ways to reduce carbon in the atmosphere is greenfield tropical forestry. With intense sun and two rainy seasons annually, East Africa is one of the best places in the world to plant sustainable forests. The main barrier to establishing forests at scale and realizing the benefits they bring is lack of access to investment, especially innovative sources such as patient equity capital, blended return financing and impact investing.
Another related challenge is that less than 15% of East Africa’s population has access to the electricity grid, and most rely on charcoal as their main source of cooking fuel. Combined with the region’s 5% annual population growth, charcoal use is the number one driver of deforestation and environmental degradation. Despite its enviable climate, the region does not have its own sustainable timber resource and imports the majority of its high value timber products, like rural electrification poles to expand the grid.
Finally, with population growth and extreme rural poverty, it is impossible to grow sustainable forests in East Africa without partnering with the neighbouring communities. Their local, short-term interests and the critical importance of poverty alleviation need to be aligned with global, long-term interests like climate change mitigation and timber resources. Uganda is piloting a few innovative approaches based on revenue-sharing, payment-for-ecosystem services, and village savings and loan association models.
The New Forests Company (NFC) is a sustainable forestry and wood products business in Uganda, Rwanda and Tanzania that maximizes its social, environmental and economic impacts through a comprehensive shared value strategy. NFC is a New Generations Plantations platform participant, and is committed to NGP’s principles of maintaining the integrity of ecosystems, protecting high conservation values, working with the communities, and contributing to economic growth and employment. The company is the second largest private tree planter in East Africa, the largest local producer of high quality electrification poles, and a pioneer of a new community engagement approach called “Forests for Prosperity”.
This study tour will be co-hosted by NFC and WWF-Uganda. It will use NFC’s operations and experiences in Uganda as a catalyst to discuss:
- The potential for greenfield tropical forestry to play a key role in climate change mitigation
- The role of companies as drivers of socio-economic development in 21st century Africa
- The pressing need for blended return, patient capital, impact investing and other innovative financing vehicles to unlock the full extent of these benefits.
We look forward to discussing these daunting challenges and exciting opportunities with stakeholders on the ground to come up with solutions that are relevant to sustainable forestry globally.