Civil society actively engaged in national REDD+ strategy preparation in Togo

Engagement will get another boost thanks to new support from the FCPF capacity building program for indigenous peoples and civil society organizations
As Togo works to prepare its national REDD+ strategy, an important partner has stepped up to the plate: civil society. In a country with strong political support for the REDD+ process, a two-year information campaign by the National REDD+ Coordination Unit has focused on building awareness and dialogue at all levels around forest and climate change issues. The campaign has supported information sharing and the mobilization and commitment of stakeholders, especially civil society organizations, around the REDD+ process. 
Civil society groups here have created platforms and self-organized at the local, regional and national levels to boost participation in REDD+ and are also actively taking part in the national REDD+ management bodies. What is more, these stakeholders have made it a priority to see that local populations have the right information to actively engage in forest and climate dialogues, while demonstratin the on-the-ground benefits of more sustainable management of agriculture and forests.
For example, in May and June this year, Togos Women REDD+ Consortium spearheaded a national public awareness campaign on climate change, REDD+ and fuelwood efficiency which reached more than 6,500 women and 600 men in 60 townships. A major driver of forest degradation in the country is the collection of fuelwood for cooking, and women usually handle this task.  According to Ms. Essivi Sinmgnon Acakpo-Addra, President of the Consortium, The goal of this campaign was to mobilize women around the concept of REDD+ and help to reduce the pressure on the forest through more efficient use of fuelwood and charcoal. With the support of the World Bank, we have distributed 1500 improved cook stoves. The stoves produce fewer emissions than traditional cook stoves, require less fuel, time and money to prepare the same meal, and can minimize the demands on forests for firewood while reducing the risk of respiratory illnesses in women.
The National Council of Civil Society Organizations for Sustainable Development in Togo (CNODD) has also been working to bring the concept of REDD+ to local communities. In 2016, the group developed an informational guide called "The tree, the forest and our life on Earth." Using the guide as its foundation, the CNODD organized 35 workshops on forest and climate change issues with traditional and local leaders of 35 prefectures along with 50 radio broadcasts across 25 rural radio stations. “Radio is the best way to reach people. In talking about REDD+ in local languages, we want to help get the communities more directly involved, alongside the government, in the sustainable management of our forest resources," said Mr. Paul Kanfitine, President of the CNODD.
Finally,  the Togolese Coordination of Peasant Organizations and Agricultural Producers (CTOP) has organized five regional workshops and trained more than 100 producers (who will then train others) on sustainable agricultural practices and the links between deforestation, farming and climate change. "We are committed to REDD+ because we hope for more fertile land and more regular rainfall for our crops," said Mr. Fikou Ougadja, who works on monitoring and evaluation of the CTOP.
Togo has recently been awarded $35,000 from the FCPFs capacity building program to further boost REDD+ outreach in the country. The funding, which will go to two NGOs in the country, will support additional awareness activities and media campaigns. 
The work of these groups to date has been a key factor in reaching stakeholders at all levels. At a time when Togo is focused on preparing its national REDD+ strategy, it is more important than ever to have civil society, NGOs and local communities informed and involved.
(A version of this article is also available in French)
By Blaise Atakouna of Togo's National RED+ Coordination Unit, responsible for Information, Education and Communication, July 12 2017