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Time to scale up and support Africa’s Great Green Wall

FAO Director-General outlines the path to restore 100 million hectares from Dakar to Djibouti by 2030

25 June 2020, Rome - It is time for coordination and renewed support for the Great Green Wall, Africa's landmark sustainable development programme, FAO Director-General QU Dongyu stressed today.

"We have to promote sustainable eco-economies. Restoration and associated livelihood benefits must be scaled up," Qu said to heads of United Nations agencies and other multilateral entities at a round table on how to roll out a project that spans 8,000 kilometers and aims to restore 100 million hectares of degraded landscapes by 2030.

The Great Green Wall Initiative, endorsed by the African Union in 2007, is a response to the challenge of desertification and climate change along the arid strip of land in the Sahara-Sahel region, stretching from Senegal to Djibouti. FAO has played a leading role in initial projects linked to the initiative, which have showcased its potential and identified its needs.

Significant political will and financial resources will need to be mobilized and the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration 2021-2030, led by FAO and UN Environment Programme (UNEP) with the Great Green Wall as its flagship programme, is well suited to lead the coordination effort.

Today's meeting was jointly organized by FAO, UNEP and the UN Convention to Combat Desertification and consisted of a presentation on projects implemented so far under the initiative and the way ahead to 2030, along with a discussion on how to leverage cooperation opportunities.

The Great Green Wall initiative has evolved into a comprehensive integrated ecosystem management whose 2030 goals include creating 10 million green jobs and the sequestering of 250 million tonnes of carbon dioxide.

Accelerating efforts to achieve those bold aims will produce global benefits by contributing to climate change mitigation, prevention of biodiversity loss and the transformation for the better of the lives of millions of people.

The FAO Director-General also urged that the spirit of the iconic project in Africa be expanded in a "Great Green Wall for Cities" vision extending to other continents. He encouraged countries to plan pilot projects soon. Preserving natural ecosystems is critical but often it is necessary to build new ones using nature-based solutions, he added.

Progress report

Early field projects undertaken so far, often through FAO's Action Against Desertification programme and involving 12 million seedlings from more than 100 woody and local forage species, help point the way forward for the scaling-up enterprise.

FAO has devised a comprehensive restoration approach, connecting plant science to communities and deploying mechanization where appropriate, which over the past five years has helped restore more than 50 000 hectares of barren lands in more than 400 communities and improving livelihoods for close to one million people.

Emphasizing the link between ecology and economics, FAO has focused on developing value chains for non-timber forest products such as Gum Arabic, fodder, honey, and native seed oils, which provide income opportunities that benefit vulnerable rural communities and in particular women in low-cash areas to improve their livelihoods and resilience.

FAO also has a robust toolkit - including modern geospatial technologies and extensive training provision for national experts on how to use them - for innovative monitoring and evaluation of operations.

Sustainable rehabilitation of degraded lands goes beyond planting trees, as it supports livelihoods. FAO projects to foster cultivation of fodder for livestock in Burkina Faso, Niger and Senegal have generated sizable benefits and boosted household income.

Assessing all the work done by Member States and stakeholders on the Great Green Wall Initiative so far, 20 million hectares of land has already been restored. To achieve the 2030 goal, a faster pace is required to restore 8.2 million hectares of land annually at an estimated cost of $3.6 billion a year.

Photo: ©Benedicte Kurzen/NOOR for FAO
A tree nursery in Senegal.