Action Against Desertification

FAO supports the expansion of Great Green Wall restoration in eastern Senegal


Bakel, Senegal – Since 2015, the Action Against Desertification (AAD) programme has been supporting the Great Green Wall (GGW) implementation in northern Senegal, bringing many positive benefits to communities, the environment and for biodiversity conservation. Over 8000 hectares of severely degraded land have already been prepared and planted to restore their productivity, benefitting directly more than one thousand small scale farmers and herders. Building on these successful restoration interventions in the Louga Region, north-west, AAD is now expanding its operations to the eastern part of the country’s GGW transect in the Region of Tambacounda, the largest of Senegal's 14 regions. Similar to the north-west, the region is a sparsely populated area, largely covered by grassland and cropland.  While agro-sylvo-pastoral lands are severely degraded in the area, cutting edge geospatial technology has exposed very high restoration opportunities and potentials.

In Bakel, the new home of AAD Senegal team, technicians are working hand-in-hand with the National Agency for Reforestation and partners at the GGW. Restoration interventions cover the three municipalities of Bakel, Gabou and Ballou, and are implemented in close collaboration with communities and local, decentralized authorities. The move to the east marks an important impulse from FAO for the GGW Agency to operate for the first time on the ground in this part of the country. It is perceived as a relief by those communities who have been waiting for such interventions for so long.

AAD’s proven and cost-efficientrestoration model based on large-scale mechanized land preparation for rainwater harvesting and soil permeability, and enrichment planting of native woody and fodder grass species, is being scaled out in yet another region. The approach combines direct sowing of native seeds and the planting of nursery seedlings, prioritised by communities in restoration or rehabilitation of lands in agroforestry, agro-ecology and/or sylvo-pastoral systems.

“We planned these activities in the Tambacounda region since last year with the acquisition of the new AAD’s Delfino plough and a tractor. Now, land preparation is effective and ongoing, at the early start of the rains this year” says Mansour Mbaye, the AAD field technician who has recently relocated from Widou to Bakel. He adds “The target for this year is 1 500 hectares, with 500 ha in each of the municipalities of Bakel, Ballou and Gabou”. About 600 kg seeds of combined two third fodder herbaceous and one third woody species have been mobilized to plant these sites.

The Forestry department, in collaboration with the National Agency of GGW, has established tree nurseries, producing 50 000 seedlings of 10 native species for planting this rainy season. Concomitantly, the Government of Senegal contributes to these field operations, directing 200 youngsters to work through their two-year national service. This scheme supports Senegal’s commitment to climate change adaptation and mitigation and to accelerate the GGW implementation, with hands-on experience of the youth recruitment programme "XËYU NDAW ÑI" (Youth’s work in Wolof). In this framework, AAD has adjusted its activities to include training and developing technical capacity not only of village technicians, but also of this contingent of youngsters, ranging from wild seed collection and handling, nursery techniques, planting to maintenance of restoration sites.

The AAD programme has been operating in Senegal since 2015, initially with funding from the European Union. Alongside land restoration interventions, the programme has assisted the reintroduction of wildlife composed of 20 land turtles and 11 Sahelo-Saharan antelopes into the Koyli-Alpha natural reserve. It has also developed restoration-based income generating activities including non-timber forest products planting and processing, such as Balanites aegyptiaca kernels into oil and soap, fodder production, as well as tourist services in the nature reserve. With the extension of land restoration activities in eastern Senegal, AAD is contributing to the total land prepared and planted to initiate restoration and rehabilitation in the country, expected to reach 10 000 hectares by the end of the year, in support of ambitious targets in place to reach land degradation objectives in African drylands.