FAO-EU partnership

A great green wall for the Sahara and Sahel

Africa and Europe join efforts to combat desertification, while improving food security and contributing to climate change adaptation

29 September 2011, Addis Ababa - A €1.75 million African Union project, supported by the European Union and FAO, aiming to address desertification, land degradation and drought in the Sahara and Sahel, was launched at the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa in Addis Ababa.

Desertification directly affects 1 billion people worldwide and particularly in Africa, where two-thirds of the land cover consists of dry lands and deserts. Desertification not merely concerns the advance of existing deserts, but equally influences arid lands, as a result of the combined effects of land degradation, deforestation and soil exhaustion.

The African Union-project supports the Green Great Wall Initiative, endorsed by African Heads of State and Government in 2007, to tackle the detrimental social, economic and environmental impact of land degradation and desertification in the region, in particular by supporting local community's efforts in sustainable management and use of natural resources.

The Initiative aims to prevent desertification through sustainable management of forests, range lands and natural resources. At the same time, its actions are designed to contribute to climate change adaptation and poverty alleviation of the population in the areas concerned.

A shared vision

From an initial vision focused on tree planting, the Great Green Wall initiative has evolved into a more ecologically appropriate and socio-economically sustainable approach.

Priorities will vary from country to country. For some, they include combating sand encroachment, reversing pasture land degradation, restoring degraded land by favouring natural regeneration and re-forestation.

For others, priorities lie with developing the agroforestry sector, developing new harvesting techniques, up scaling sustainable land management practices, including soil and water conservation.  

Capacity building and best practices

The African Union project will develop activities in Algeria, Burkina Faso, Egypt, Mauritania, Nigeria, the Gambia, Senegal and the Sudan. Other partner countries, including Chad, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Mali and Niger, are being supported through an FAO technical cooperation project.

The thirty-month project received € 1.4 million in funding from the European Union, topped-up with co-financing of over € 350,000 by the Global Mechanism of the UNCCD and FAO. The Commission of the African Union provides in-kind contribution by hosting the project management.

It will focus on capacity development for the planning and implementation of best practices at local level and international levels, establishing a networking platform for knowledge sharing and technology transfer, developing a harmonized strategy for the Great Green Wall initiative and setting up a platform for partnership and resource mobilization.

Great Green Wall for the Sahara and Sahel Initiative

The Great Green Wall for the Sahara and sahel Initiative is an African Union programme which brings together more than 20 countries from the Sahelo-Saharan region, with regional and international organizations, including the African Union Commission, the Pan-African Agency, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the Intergovernmental Authority on Development in Eastern Africa (IGAD),The Community of Saharian and Sahelian States (CEN-SAD),  the Arab Maghreb Union (UMA) and the European Union and the FAO.

Other regional and development partners include the Interstate committee for drought control in the Sahel (CILSS), the Sahara and Sahel Observatory (OSS),  the Global Mechanism of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification, World Agroforestry Centre in Kenya (ICRAF), World Overview of Conservation Approaches and Technologies (WOCAT) and African Forest Forum (AFF) as well as the World Bank, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the Drylands Center of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

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