Two-thirds of the African continent is desert or drylands. This land is vital for agriculture and food production, however nearly three-fourths of it is estimated to be degraded to varying degrees. The region is affected by frequent and severe droughts, which have been particularly severe in recent years in the Horn of Africa and the Sahel. Poverty and difficult socio-economic conditions are widespread, and as a result many people are dependent on natural resources for their livelihoods. For many African countries, fighting land degradation and desertification and mitigating the effects of drought are prerequisites for economic growth and social progress. Increasing sustainable land management and building resilience to drought in Africa can have profound positive impacts that reach from the local to the global level.
The Regional Implementation Annex for Africa of the UNCCD outlines an approach for addressing desertification, land degradation and drought on the African continent. This Annex is the most detailed and comprehensive of all the regional annexes to the Convention.
Africa: Regional cooperation
All African countries are Party to the UNCCD. Most African countries have developed and submitted National Action Programmes (NAPs). The preparation of NAPs is a dynamic, continuous process and the status of each country is subject to change over time. The Convention’s bottom-up approach, whereby existing desertification programmes are reviewed by stakeholders, including non-governmental organizations (NGOs), local authorities, and community leaders, was also generally adopted during the formulation of national action plans. In order to be successfully implemented, the NAPs must be integrated into other national strategies for sustainable development, such as the Poverty Reduction Strategy, and consultative processes must be launched with the intention of building partnerships across sectors. Currently, many African countries are preparing for the alignment of the national action programmes to the 10-year strategy of the UNCCD.
To facilitate cooperation on issues related to land degradation, African countries have created five Sub-regional Action Programmes (SRAPs) and a Regional Action Programme (RAP). The current African RAP outlines were adopted at a ministerial level in 1999 and compose six thematic programme networks (TPNs) that concern integrated water management, agro-forestry and soil conservation, rangelands, ecological monitoring and early warning systems, new and renewable energy sources and technologies, and sustainable agricultural farming systems.
The purpose of the regional and sub-regional action programmes are to provide a framework for coordinated action among countries and other key stakeholders, which complement and support national level implementation.
Since the adoption of the 10-year Strategy, the sub-regional entities have begun aligning their action programmes to it, particularly the North, Central and Western African programmes. The other two sub-regions have benefited from training by the UNCCD on how to align their programmes to the Strategy. It is expected that the alignment of the sub-regional action programmes to the Strategy will improve their effectiveness in addressing desertification, land degradation and drought in the African region.
Further following the adoption of the Strategy, regional cooperation has received increasing attention within UNCCD decision-making. An important demonstration of this is decision 3/COP 9, which calls for strengthening the effectiveness and efficiency of regional coordination mechanisms, with the view to facilitate cooperation among affected parties within the regions, enhance synergies among relevant institutions and organizations, and respond to existing and emerging challenges, capacities and specific issues.
As a result of decision 3/COP 9, the following has been achieved in Africa:
• a regional consultative committee has been established in November 2012 in Algiers to guide and support regional coordination.
• a regional work programme has been drafted as a practical framework for joint activities and coordination within the region.
• a regional coordination unit (RCU) for Africa, hosted by the African Development Bank in Tunis, has been strengthened.