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FAO Director-General calls for urgent scale-up of Africa’s Great Green Wall

QU Dongyu joined President Macron and The Prince of Wales at One Planet Summit

11 January 2021, Paris/Rome - The Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, QU Dongyu, today appealed for an urgent scale-up of Africa's Great Green Wall initiative to restore degraded land, create jobs and address climate change.

The Director-General spoke in a virtual address to the Great Green Wall investment forum held at the One Planet Summit for Biodiversity 2021 hosted by French President, Emmanuel Macron. The Prince of Wales and the President of Mauritania, Mohamed Ould Ghazouani, also addressed the summit.

Qu emphasized FAO's commitment to the Great Green Wall Initiative stating that the UN organization had worked with local communities in the Sahel region on a comprehensive approach towards land restoration by providing plant science and mechanization of traditional agricultural methods to transform agri-food systems and landscapes.

"Over the last five years, we applied this approach in over 400 communities, thereby helping to restore over 50,000 hectares of degraded lands to the benefit of close to one million people," Qu noted.

Endorsed by the African Union in 2007, the Great Green Wall is Africa's flagship initiative to combat climate change and desertification and address food insecurity and poverty with the goal of restoring 100 million hectares by 2030.  FAO has played a leading role implementing projects linked to the initiative.

The Director-General said FAO currently has a project portfolio of $238 million directly supporting the 5 Pillars of the Great Green Wall Accelerator and a total project portfolio of over $1.15 billion supporting 11 Great Green Wall countries.

FAO's activities include technical assistance on the restoration of degraded lands across the Sahel from Mauritania and Senegal in the west to Djibouti and Eritrea in the east of the continent.

The Director-General emphasized that greater collaboration is needed between international organizations, national authorities, the private sector and local communities to promote innovation in policy, technology and business models that would support projects on the ground.

Qu indicated that FAO was working with United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) and the UN Environment Programme to support the Great Green Wall initiative, noting that this concerted effort would serve as a "flagship" for the SDG Decade of Action and the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration 2021-2030, which FAO leads with UNEP.  FAO would also use its Hand-in-Hand platform to implement related projects, he added.

"The Great Green Wall Initiative is a historic opportunity to conserve biodiversity, address climate change and enhance food security simultaneously," he stated.

In his address to the forum, President Macron acknowledged FAO's contribution to the initiative and appealed for more action to support projects that would build security and stability. The Prince of Wales, suggested that the Great Green Wall could be a model for other regions around the world like the Amazon region, Australia's Great Barrier Reef and Small Island Developing States (SIDS).

Ibrahim Thiaw, Executive Secretary of UNCCD, noted that the Great Green Wall could create a new scenario for development, while Gilbert Houngbo, President of the International Fund for Agricultural Development, indicated that the private sector could play a greater role in providing investment and know-how.

Akinwumi Adesina, the President of the African Development Bank (AfDB), Moussa Faki Mahamat, the Chairperson of the African Union Commission (AUC), Brian Moynihan, the Chairman and CEO of Bank of America, Yannick Glemarec, the Executive Director of the Green Climate Fund, and Abdoulaye Dia, Executive Secretary, Pan African Agency for the Great Green Wall, also spoke at the event.

Through its projects, FAO intends to mobilize and strengthen its network of trained experts working on the ground to support capacity development and restoration action. To assist farmers and pastoralists, FAO also offers digital real-time information through the WaPOR portal that monitors Water Productivity through Open access of remotely sensed derived data.

Resource mobilization is key to the success of the implementing the Great Green Wall Initiative by 2030. The Initiative aims to restore 100 million hectares of degraded land, create 10 million green jobs and sequester 250 million tonnes of carbon-equivalent.

Photo: ©FAO
French President, Emmanuel Macron, speaks to Great Green Wall Investment Forum at One Planet Summit for Biodiversity 2021.