Senegal to host the global observance event of the World Day to Combat Desertification and the first Africa Drylands Week

Press Release

Governments and international organizations to address the challenges of desertification and biodiversity loss in the region

Bonn, Germany/Rome, Italy, 3 June 2011 – Over 100 scientists, and representatives of government, international and civil society organizations from around the world will converge in Dakar, Senegal, from 10 to 17 June 2011, to develop an integrated approach to address the Region’s abiding challenges of desertification and biodiversity loss, and the new climate change threat. The First Africa Drylands Week will be held back-to-back with the global observance event on 17 June to mark this year’s World Day to Combat Desertification.

The speakers at the events will include Luc Gnacadja, UNCCD Executive Secretary, representatives of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), Professor Jeffery Sachs, Earth Institute of Columbia University, Dennis Garrity, ICRAF Director-General, and Godwin Kowero, Executive Secretary of the African Forest Forum and other dignitaries. Djibo Leity Ka, Senegal’s Minister of State, Ministry of Environment and Nature Protection, will preside over the World Day to Combat Desertification.

Several heads of UN agencies and international organizations have already sent messages in observance of the events. They are Jacques Diouf, Director General, FAO, Monique Barbut, Chief Executive, Global Environment Facility, Kanayo Nwanze, President, International Fund for Agricultural Development, Ahmed Djoglaf, Executive Secretary, Convention on Biological Diversity, Christina Figueres, Executive Secretary, UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, Christian Mersmann, Managing Director, Global Mechanism of the UNCCD, and Ambassador Kwon Byong Hyon, the SLM Champion of the UNCCD.

“Land degradation often begins with deforestation, but leads to many other ills that we then try to address independent of each other. The spirit and mindset of the first African Drylands Week shows a paradigm shift that is emblematic of what the international community, as a whole, must do to surmount the grave environmental challenges facing us. Shedding our individual environmental blinders, will lead us to a holistic view of our environment, and a better identification of the sources, not symptoms, of such global environmental diseases,” says Luc Gnacadja, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD).

The First Africa Drylands Weeks and this year’s World Day to Combat Desertification are also part of 2011 International Year of Forests celebrating forests for people. The arid zone forests support the livelihoods of a large proportion of its two billion people inhabitants of the drylands. Overall deforestation has declined globally, but persists in Africa and South America, according to the FAO’s 2010 Global Forests Resource Assessment. The pressure on arid zone forests and the rangelands that protect them may increase, especially in the tropical and sub-tropical regions, from two opposing forces. There is a global campaign to conserve the moist tropical forests for carbon sequestration, on the one hand, and the need open up new land for agriculture to meet a growing global demand for biofuels, food and poverty eradication on the other. Increasingly, this pressure is being eased by reverting to the drylands.

Field visits, high-level panel discussions and workshops will provide the platform for dialoguing and sharing knowledge around these issues, and the implementation of the biodiversity, climate change and desertification conventions. A way forward and a joint plan to enhancing collaboration among different organizations and partners will be defined and next steps to upscale good practices will be discussed. An information kit on the drylands will be launched during the Week in addition to other activities.

The First Africa Drylands Week and World Day to Combat Desertification are organized by the Government of Senegal, in collaboration with the African Union Commission, the National Great Green Wall Agency of Senegal, the Earth Institute of Columbia University, African Forest Forum, FAO, the UNCCD secretariat, the Global Mechanism of the UNCCD, the World Agroforestry Organization (ICRAF), the Permanent Inter-State Committee for Drought Control in the Sahel (CILSS), the Sahara and Sahel Observatory (OSS) and Wallonie-Bruxelles International (WBI), and co-funded by the European Commission.

Notes to Editors:

From 10 to 12 June, two media tours will be organized for members wishing to participate. Due to the timing of the two itineraries, media can choose to participate in one media tour only.

The first itinerary will take the participants to the regions of Kébemer, Louga and Linguere to visit various projects, including the dune fixation project and its management for tourism which is being implemented by the forest service, in partnership with NGOs and private sector organizations and the Acacia Operation Project which implemented by FAO with partners in Senegal (Forest Service, women local groups, the private sector, local communities). The itinerary will also include visits to various Acacia project sites, following the gum market chain from the forest to end product. The visits will also take us to the project sites of  the Millenium Villages Projects as well as to some Great Green Wall  initiative sites where interventions were implemented by the Agence Nationale de la grande Muraille Verte in Senegal in collaboration with local actors.

The second itinerary will be organized in the region of Kaolak where visits will include sites showcasing desertification issues and the best practices piloted in the region for combating desertification. One of the sites for example is the site of Keur Bam, showcasing how degraded land can be restored through sustainable forest management, keeping desertification pressure away in order to aid the process of natural regeneration. Another site is the forest of Koutal which was totally restored thanks to the commitment and hard work of a local women’s group.

For information on the first Africa Drylands Week contact:

Serigne Mbodji/Agence Nationale de la Grande Muraille Verte (Senegal)

Nora Berrahmouni/FAO

Hervé Bisseleua/Earth Institute

For information on the World Day to Combat Desertification, contact:

Yukie Hori/UNCCD Secretariat
tel: +49 228 815 2829

Boubacar Cisse/UNCCD Secretariat
tel: +216-7110 2311

For information media-related inquiries, contact:

Wagaki Mwangi, UNCCD Secretariat
tel: +49 (0)228 815 2820
cell: +49-173-268 7593.

For information on media tour, contact:

Serigne Mbodji/Agence Nationale de la Grande Muraille Verte (Senegal).