Director-General  QU Dongyu

FAO renews commitment to Africa’s Great Green Wall


07 September 2020, Rome - Accelerating work on the Great Green Wall, which aims to combat desertification across Africa, is key for climate and environmental reasons and also to “make people have a better life”, FAO Director-General QU Dongyu said today.

The ambitious project aims to restore 100 million hectares of land around the Sahel desert belt by 2030. “Every single hectare counts and must be counted,” the Director-General said at a high-level ministerial meeting held to assess progress and renew commitments to the project.

“The Great Green Wall is a beacon initiative that addresses the multiple, complex and interconnected environmental and socio-economic challenges facing Africa,” Qu said. United Nations Environment Executive Director Inge Andersen echoed the remarks, urging that the Great Green Wall be seen as a “growth corridor” helping people who otherwise struggle to make their daily bread in harsh local conditions. “The vision is much bigger than it seems – it’s about peace… about growing hope,” she said.

Amina Mohammed, Deputy Secretary General of the United Nations, opened the meeting with a pledge of UN support for the 11 countries partnering in what she called a “must and can-do initiative” that will “change the lived realities of millions of people.”

The Virtual Ministerial Conference on the Great Green Wall, organized by the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), launched the Great Green Wall Implementation Status and Way Ahead to 2030 report. So far about 18 million hectares have been restored, with an estimated 11 million people benefiting from the efforts, over 350,000 jobs were created and around USD 90 million in revenues were generated from 2007 to 2018. The restored area is expected to sequester over 300 MtCO2 out to 2030, which would represent roughly 30% of the envisioned target for the GGW.

The initiative has also helped to reduce rural poverty and create close to 120 000 jobs in farm-related activities, including adding value to local products. Over 220,000 people received training on sustainable production of agro-pastoral and non-timber products, benefitting the shift to more responsible consumption and production. The results achieved so far, especially given the poor soils of the region, suggest that land restoration is a cost-effective way to bolster income opportunities for rural livelihoods everywhere, said Ibrahim Thiaw, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification, who hostedand moderated today’s meeting.

However, the project has been plagued by poor coordination and above all by what the new implementation report described as an “insufficient, unpredictable and insecure funding basis”.

Achieving the target by 2030 will require a faster pace in restoring land (8.2 million hectares every year) and about yearly financing of $4.3 billion. Representatives of numerous international financial institutions, including the World Bank, the African Development Bank, the International Fund for Agricultural Development and the West African Development Bank participated in the meeting, along with ministers from many African countries and Josefa Sacko, African Union Commissioner for Rural Economy and Agriculture, as well as representative of key donors such as France and the European Union.

The Great Green Wall envisions an 8 000-kilometer corridor of ecological restoration stretching across 11 countries, all members of the Pan-African Agency of the Great Green Wall: Burkina Faso, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sudan and Chad.

FAO’s Director-General noted a number of key areas where the Organization has assets critical to the initiative’s success, including modern geospatial technologies and the WaPOR remote-sensing platform to assess water productivity. “Large-scale restoration work, underpinned by innovative and cutting-edge data collection and monitoring, promotes environmental recovery, improves livelihoods and increases regional cooperation,” he said.

He also emphasized how FAO can help with resource mobilization due to its expertise in working closely with institutions such as the Green Climate Fund, whose executive director, Yannick Glemarec, spoke at today’s meeting, and the Global Environment Facility. Success will depend on scaling up financing, which depends on “reducing investment jitters” by making the social, economic and environmental dividends of investments in land restoration more visible, the Director-General said.