FAO Capacity Development

Making the Great Green Wall a reality: one country at a time


The Great Green Wall initiative is a pan-African programme to improve the resilience and restore the productivity of agro-sylvo-pastoral landscapes affected by Desertification, Land Degradation and Drought in Africa’s drylands around the Sahara.   

The initiative is an African Union programme that brings together more than 20 countries from the Sahel-Saharan region, along with a mosaic of regional and international organisations, including FAO. To support the effective implementation of the Great Green Wall, FAO and partners are currently implementing a project funded by EU-ACP, called Action Against Desertification, involving six Great Green Wall countries (Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Senegal, the Gambia, Niger, Nigeria). Activities are quite diverse across countries but they all look at promoting sustainable land management and restoration, by diversifying and restoring production systems  (agriculture, forestry and agroforestry, rangelands management) while preventing further desertification and supporting sustainable livelihoods.

Country ownership is at the core of the Great Green Wall approach. In each country, a diverse and complex combination of actors are involved in the initiative, from within government ministries, to local communities, civil society and the private sector. Moreover, the Great Green Wall initiative involves a diverse range of sectors, from forestry, to livestock, agriculture, rural development, environment and, economics and livelihoods, to name a few. For Great Green Wall projects to be successful, lead actors need exceptional planning and coordination capacities, as well as leadership skills and technical know-how in natural resource management. This needs to be combined with a clear framework for collaboration among institutions, as well as strong buy-in from local communities.

Capacity Development is therefore one of the keys to making the Great Green Wall a reality, and is at the heart of Great Green Wall’s approach.

Snapshot from Senegal

One of the main focuses of the Great Green Wall project in Senegal is to create a community-based natural reserve at Kholy-Alpha, in the rural community of Mboula. The reserve aims to improve the living conditions of populations, improve biodiversity conservation and promote sustainable management of the land via a number of initiatives, such as developing ecotourism and non-wood forest products value chains.

A capacity assessment workshop took place in Saint-Louis, Senegal in May 2015, aiming to assess the capacities of all stakeholders involved in the Action Against Desertification project. Local facilitators had been trained by FAO to facilitate the workshop. Representatives from the Senegal Great Green Wall Agency, who benefitted from FAO’s ongoing coaching, chaired and led the event. The workshop brought together twenty-five people including ministerial staff, producer organisations, and representatives of two municipalities.

The workshop generated positive results, some of which were unexpected. These included:

  • The need to establish a multi-stakeholder management committee for strong coordination between actors.
  • The need for better management capacities in the community reserve.
  • The need for enhanced capacities in tourism management, awareness raising, advocacy and fundraising.

The workshop also enabled stakeholders to gain a better understanding of each other’s role in the project, and gave participants a sense of ownership and commitment to the capacity development process.

Supporting country ownership and leadership

In order for the Great Green Wall initiative to be successful, countries must be able to take full ownership and leadership over their projects. To achieve this, Great Green Wall coordinating agencies have been established in some countries, whilst in others the Ministry of Agriculture, Environment or Forestry has taken up coordinating functions.  FAO is working with these organizations to develop their leadership and to support the capacities of stakeholders to achieve Great Green Wall objectives.

FAO’s aim is to enable country actors to effectively lead the long-term implementation of their Great Green Wall projects, and to carry out capacity development activities independently.

To achieve this, FAO is working closely with national actors on a three-tiered capacity development programme, always ensuring that country actors are in the lead.

  1. Assessing the capacities of project stakeholders to achieve their Great Green Wall objectives.
  2. Designing and implementing capacity development activities to support the effective implementation of the Great Green Wall programme.
  3. Monitoring and evaluating the results of Great Green Wall activities, whilst tracking changes in the capacities of the stakeholders.

Capacity needs assessments in three countries

So far, since May 2015, FAO has supported national actors in Senegal, Ethiopia and Niger to lead participatory capacity assessment workshops. FAO coached focal points from the Great Green Wall coordinating agencies, along with national facilitators, to lead and facilitate these workshops. This enables country actors to replicate such events independently in the future.

The assessments have yielded meaningful findings and have highlighted priority areas for support. Common capacity needs that emerged across the three countries include: coordination capacities, capacities to manage natural resources, and communication capacities.

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