Ministers from African countries North and South of the Sahara and their development partners have agreed to accelerate progress on the Great Green Wall, Africa’s largest rural development initiative, during a High-Level conference in Dakar, Senegal.
The Conference, which was organized by the African Union together with key partners including the Global Mechanism of the UNCCD from 3-7 May 2016, follows on from the recent Global Climate Summit (COP21) in Paris, where world leaders and key development partners pledged an additional USD 4 billion to the Great Green Wall over the next 5 years.
The renewed commitments offer fresh hope that the bold ambition of the Great Green Wall – to transform the lives of the Continent’s poorest people by restoring the productivity of its degraded landscapes – can now become a reality.
“A decade after the initiative started – originally amidst a lot of scepticism – today the Great Green Wall stands as one of the most innovative and daring endeavours in human history – a real ‘world wonder’.” said Janet Edeme, on behalf of Tumusiime Rhoda Peace, Commissioner of the Department of Rural Economy and Agriculture at the African Union Commission.
With 46% of African land currently affected by land degradation, jeopardizing the livelihoods of nearly 65% of the Continent’s population – the planned action along the Great Green Wall is certainly timely. In 2015, more than 20 million people in the Sahel were food insecure. Most of the poor and hungry live in rural areas and a major part of their income comes from agriculture.
Moreover, the excess unskilled labour arriving from rural areas can no longer easily be absorbed in cities already at bursting point. To address the lack of opportunities, economic migrants with the resources to do so are undertaking long journeys, frequently under desperate conditions. Many risk their lives in search of a better life on the European continent. Millions more are expected to follow imminently, as climate change amplifies the threat posed by an already declining natural resource base.
“Every day on news stations around the world, we see the impact that land degradation is having in the Sahel”, highlighted Camilla Nordheim-Larsen of the Global Mechanism of the UN Convention to Combat Desertification. “Flash floods in Niger, the Boko Haram massacres in the Lake Chad region, food crises in the Horn of Africa, and terrorist attacks in Mali and Burkina Faso. At their root, all of these can be traced back to a cycle of poverty and lack of opportunity that is fuelled by the declining productivity of natural resources.’’
Amidst these urgent challenges, the Great Green Wall promises to be a compelling part of the solution; by providing people with improved economic prospects, a cushion against climate change, a reason to stay for unemployed youth set to migrate from the region, whilst helping to restore political stability.
Indeed, since the Initiative’s launch in 2007 by African Heads of State, significant progress has already been recorded. For example in Senegal, more than 11 million trees have been planted, in Nigeria 20,000 jobs have been created in rural areas and in Ethiopia 15 million hectares of degraded land have been restored.
“We all understand that the Great Green Wall Initiative is more than just a green belt: it is a strategy for maximizing the opportunities of the Sahara and Sahel region, through real involvement of communities and local governments”, affirmed Abdoulaye Balde, Senegal Minister of Environment and Sustainable Development. “Our survival now depends on our efforts and convictions.”
The Conference culminated in the ‘Dakar Declaration’, which Ministers and key development partners agreed would act as a roadmap for defining the way forward to help the Great Green Wall realize its full potential as a lifeline for the Continent’s poorest people, not just to survive but to thrive once more on their ancestral lands.
Great Green Wall Brochure (1.21 MB)