Gabon will become the first African nation to receive funding to preserve its rainforests to mitigate the effects of climate change. As part of a 10-year deal announced on Sunday (Sept. 22), Norway will pay $150 million to Gabon to battle deforestation and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The deal is part of the Central African Forest Initiative (CAFI), which was launched by the United Nations in 2015 to link European donors with countries in Africa. The partnership sets a carbon floor price of $10 per certified ton and will be paid on the basis of verified results from 2016 through to 2025.
Gabon, which is on the Atlantic Ocean, has just 2 million people and abundant natural resources. Forests cover almost 90% of the country. Since the early 2000s, it has created more than a dozen national parks to preserve the forests. Gabon also has around 12% of the Congo Basin forest, which is considered the world’s second largest tropical rainforest. The country hosts 60% of Africa’s surviving forest elephants, which CAFI describes as “a key indicator of sound natural resource governance.”
Across west and equatorial Africa, illegal logging is ravaging the forests, much of it driven by demand from China. Gabon, for instance, is home to kevazingo, a reddish wood that some local communities consider sacred. But kevazingo timber is also used to make high-end furniture in Asia. Despite a 2018 government ban, kevazingo has become the target of smugglers. In May, president Ali Bongo fired his vice president and his forests minister after hundreds of seized containers with the precious timber went missing. Bongo then appointed Lee White, a British-born conservationist, as minister of forests.