Action Against Desertification

Ambitious initiative supporting Africa’s Great Green Wall to fast-track drylands restoration

Second steering committee calls on Action Against Desertification to step up restoration and resource mobilisation


Ouagadougou – It is time to upscale restoration across drylands in Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific, experts concluded after meeting in Burkina Faso to take stock of progress made by Action Against Desertification, a major international effort to expand Africa's Great Green Wall.

“No single actor alone can claim to halt the effects of climate change and desertification,” said Nestor Batio Bassière, Burkina Faso’s minister of environment at the opening of the second Steering Committee of Action Against Desertification (AAD), held in Ouagadougou from 27 February until 3 March.

The minister told the experts, who had gathered to look at AAD’s achievements since its launch in August 2014 and chart the way forward until the end of the project in February 2019, that working together was crucial to make Africa’s flagship rural development programme, the Great Green Wall initiative, a success. He added: “Early results show that degraded lands can be restored, but a lot more is needed to bring real improvement to the livelihoods of millions of people in need across our drylands.”

Dr. Ahmed Elmekass of the African Union and representing the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States told the participants from governments, international organizations, civil society and research institutes, that time is running: “Halfway through we need to fast-track restoration activities to meet AAD’s target of 40 000 hectares by 2019.”

“Action Against Desertification is a major contributor to the Great Green Wall initiative,” said Pietro Nardi of the European Union (EU). He added that important gains could be made through collaboration with other African programmes supported by the EU.

Land degradation is not irreversible

So far, an estimated 10 000 hectares of degraded land have been planted to start their restoration under AAD, which operates in eight countries in Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific: Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, The Gambia, Fiji, Haiti, Niger, Nigeria and Senegal. 

According to plans for this year the total surface could increase to 17 000 hectares.

AAD is championing an approach to land restoration that puts local communities at centre stage by focussing on their needs for useful plant species and preferences for restoration in support of their livelihoods. 

During a field visit to Burkina Faso’s Soum province, participants to the meeting were able to see the initial successes of the approach firsthand on community plots in several villages – successes showing that land degradation is not yet irreversible.

Mobilising additional resources 

AAD has also invested in capacity development: hundreds of partners at all levels were trained in the planning, financing, budgeting, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of sustainable land and forest management and restoration efforts.

At the same time, AAD has been forging partnerships and has strongly advocated for increased political and financial support to live up to the momentous challenge posed by desertification and climate change. 

“One of our priorities is to support countries in mobilising additional resources for sustainable land management,” said Aristide Ongone, FAO representative in Burkina Faso.

He added that good results on the ground are key to attract additional funding, and that AAD should use available communication tools and platforms to show these results and engage with audiences worldwide regarding the causes and appropriate measures for combating desertification and climate change.