Forestry‐based carbon sequestration projects in Africa: Potential benefits and challenges

Forestry‐based carbon sequestration projects in Africa: Potential benefits and challenges


While there is growing international interest in developing payment schemes for environmental services, including forest-based carbon sequestration, concern has been expressed that these initiatives are unequally distributed around the globe with an emphasis on Asia or Latin America leaving out African countries where financial inflows could make an especially significant impact given many are among the poorest in the world. This paper seeks to fill a gap in the literature by synthesizing forest-based carbon sequestration projects in Africa while considering the potential to locate future projects there.

Goals & Methods

The paper reviews 23 carbon sequestration projects in 14 African countries. Projects discussed range from Kyoto-compliant CDM projects, projects which are not compliant but follow CDM guidelines, and voluntary carbon sequestration projects capturing corporate social responsibility initiatives, philanthropic or strategic corporate motivations, etc. Recommendations discussed for future initiatives that aim to provide economic benefits to local communities include: operating in appropriate places (rainfall and carbon capturing potential, etc.), using suitable trees, ensuring farmers understand the nature of the contracts they engage in, accommodating African land tenure systems, keeping transaction costs manageable to ensure there is profit potential, and building the capacity of African governments.

Conclusions & Takeaways

Key points recommended for community-oriented projects include: recognizing carbon payments alone may not provide sufficient income for farmers and trying to incorporate project into a broader income stream--agroforestry systems are likely best suited to this end, contracting with groups rather than individuals can reduce transaction costs, working with local intermediary groups who can facilitate engagement with locals and devise low cost monitoring systems, addressing the challenges of institutional capacity particularly for CDM projects with strict guidelines. Additionally, since forest carbon sequestration projects rely on long timelines, any project in Africa should be cognizant of governance and political instability concerns and consider ways to address/minimize these issues.


Jindal R, Swallow B, Kerr J. Forestry-based carbon sequestration projects in Africa: Potential benefits and challenges. Natural Resources Forum. 2008;32:116–130. doi:10.1111/j.1477-8947.2008.00176.x.


  • Michigan State University