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As the most populated country in Africa, Nigeria is facing enormous pressure on its natural resources. According to Global Forest Resources Assessment 2015, the current deforestation rate is estimated at 3.5% - one of the highest in the world. The Federal Government of Nigeria is determined to protect and sustainably manage its remaining forest resources and, therefore, embarked upon REDD+ with support of the UN-REDD Programme – which supported a national programme from 2012 to 2016, and the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility (FCPF).

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Overall, the country has been making steady progress since 2010, paving its way for the implementation of REDD+ by taking advantage of available open source data and tools, increasing visibility and understanding of its rich forest resources.

Building on the support received over the years, early in 2019, Nigeria submitted a national forest reference emission level (FREL) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) with financial support from the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility (FCPF) and consequent technical support from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) requested by the Government of Nigeria. As one of the four pillars of this Warsaw Framework for REDD+, the FREL will serve Nigeria as a benchmark for assessing the performance in implementing its REDD+ activities.

The submission proceeded a sub-national FREL submission in 2018 for Cross-River State (CRS), a pilot site where Nigeria is starting REDD+ implementation. The state contains more than 50% of high tropical forest in the country and is often referred to as the Amazon of Nigeria. The national FREL used a methodology consistent with that of the sub-national FREL; that is, the methodology was scaled up to the national level while the country at the same time applied some improvements based on lessons learned from the 2018 technical assessment of the subnational FREL submission. The updated FREL was based on the results of national forest inventory activities as well as spatial data on deforestation and forest degradation collected under Nigeria’s improved National Forest Monitoring System (NFMS).

SEPAL WS NigeriaIn 2018, several trainings were held in Nigeria to enhance the country’s land monitoring capacity, specifically in areas such as the production of activity data for the estimation of emissions from deforestation and forest degradation. Nigerian experts were trained on the use of System for Earth Observation Data Access, Processing and Analysis for Land Monitoring (SEPAL), an innovative open-source cloud-based platform that allows countries to access satellite data faster and easier, paving the way for improved climate change mitigation plans and better informed land-use policies.

“The need for accurate and complete forest information in sustainable forest management by forest countries cannot be overemphasized; Nigeria is not an exception,” noted Moses Ama, the national REDD+ coordinator in Nigeria. “SEPAL has ignited our internal capacities which were hitherto low in producing high-quality satellite images because of a slow internet connection.”

Mosaics of Landsat imagery were created with SEPAL for the entire country and remote sensing experts were introduced to dense time series analysis using Breaks for Additive Seasonal and Trend (BFAST).  This approach separates actual tree cover change from seasonal changes in phenology, which enables the identification of forest changes i.e. deforestation, forest degradation and forest gains.

Nigeria’s national deforestation estimate for the FREL was built on direct land use change detection from the Global Forest Change (GFC) data set and national maps of forest types for the estimation of the associated emission factors, which are derived from ground observations from Nigeria’s national forest inventory – implemented over the past years with technical assistance from FAO. Nigeria also provided a preliminary estimate of forest degradation, an improvement compared to its initial submission where information on degradation was still lacking.

Nigeria has progressed along a steep learning curve resulting in accelerated improvement of its Measurement, Reporting and Verification (MRV) capacities, with a national FREL submission following only one year after its initial subnational submission. What’s next for Nigeria? Improved national forest and land-use information will be important to inform policy-making on forests, land use, rural livelihoods and food production. It will also help the country increase the accuracy and transparency of reporting to international processes, such as the Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). 


Useful links:

REDD+ in Nigeria:

UN-REDD Programme in Nigeria:

Community-based REDD+ Programme in Nigeria: a success story:



For more information, please contact:


Marieke Sandker, 

Forestry Officer, FREL

REDD+/NFM Cluster

Forestry Department, FAO

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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