Accelerating land restoration in the Sahel through media
Media practitioners, broadcasters, representatives from print media and multimedia producers from the eleven Great Green Wall countries participated in a two-day virtual capacity building workshop with the theme "Media as agents of change to accelerate land restoration in the Sahel" on 12 – 13 August 2021.
Facilitated by a team of technical experts from UNCCD, the African Union and the Pan-African Agency for the Great Green Wall, the training was held as part of capacity building activities in line with pillar five of the Great Green Wall Accelerator, announced by the President of France, Emmanuel Macron and other world leaders in January 2021 at the One Planet Summit on Biodiversity.
The training also sought to form a coalition of Sahelian journalists to commence continuous engagements with the media for increased advocacy about the Great Green Wall Initiative, Africa’s epic ambition to restore degraded lands and grow an 8000 km natural wonder of the world across the entire width of Africa and project the Sahel as a land of opportunities to spur investments and improve the economy of communities in the Sahel.
While declaring the media workshop open, Dr. Birguy Lamizana, Senior Programme Officer for the Sahel at UNCCD stressed the important role of the media in raising awareness and advocating for land and the environment.
Earlier in her remarks, Dr. Lamizana informed journalists that the Great Green Wall has been borne out of an urgent need for concerted efforts and urgent response to the challenges faced by the region like the impact of desertification, climate change, land and water resources degradation, loss of biodiversity, loss of livelihoods due to poverty, food insecurity, malnutrition and the recent conflicts by armed groups which has led to irregular migration.
She noted that these challenges not only affect Africa as climate issues have no barriers, sighting the recent wildfires in Greece, Italy and the sand dust in Europe near the north of Africa – all results of climate change.
A call to the media to use their tools to advocate for land and the environment even in local languages was made by Dr. Lamizana, while urging the media to be active participants in the newly launched media network for the Sahel, to advocate and lobby government to commit budgets to the National Agencies for the Great Green Wall in the 11 Great Green Wall countries, for the implementation of the Great Green Wall Initiative’s activities to meet the targets of the initiative as set out by the year 2030.
Similarly, Mr Elvis Paul Tangem, the African Union Coordinator for the Great Green Wall highlighted the importance of the Great Green Wall in providing peace, jobs and stability in the Sahel region. He noted that concerted efforts by all stakeholders such as the media will be required for success to be achieved.
Journalists during their group and plenary sessions highlighted and presented challenges of land degradation in their communities and identified story ideas they would be working on in coming weeks to raise awareness and bring attention to issues of land degradation and drought as well as efforts of countries signing up to reverse, avoid and restore degraded land to achieve Land Degradation Neutrality (LDN) Targets set out by the 11 Great Green Wall countries for the LDN programme of UNCCD.
Land degradation is a crisis affecting communities in the Sahel where people and communities live off the land – in a literal sense - and depend on its productivity for their everyday survival. About 80% of the population in Africa still rely on rain-fed agriculture for work but 65% of African land is degraded.
In the last 30 years, the Sahel has been devastated by severe droughts and massive loss of fertile land due to climate change and unsustainable land management practices.
The Great Green Wall Initiative is regreening the Sahel, restoring degraded lands and providing decent livelihoods for its people, snaking the Sahel all the way from Senegal in the West to Djibouti in the East, restoring degraded lands and providing jobs and opportunities for millions of people in Africa.
The Great Green Wall is an African-led movement launched in 2007 by leaders from the Sahelian countries, with an epic ambition to grow an 8,000 km natural wonder of the world across the entire width of Africa, involving at least 11 countries and to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.
It is estimated that around 33 billion US dollars of investment – from private, national and international sources will be needed to achieve the targets/goals of the Great Green Wall Initiative by 2030 – restore 100 Million hectares of degraded land, create 10 million jobs and sequester 250 Million tones of carbon.
In a post-COVID context where Sahelian countries are struggling with budgets and funding, the Great Green Wall Accelerator announced at the One Planet Summit in January 2021 will help meet financial requirements and turbocharge the achievement of its goals.