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New business challenge to boost the use of Sahelian products in support of the Great Green Wall

Baobab fruit, moringa oil and shea butter are just some of the products from Africa’s Sahel region that may hold the key to improving livelihoods, restoring degraded lands, and tackling climate change. To unlock this potential of the Sahel’s natural capital and give new momentum to the Great Green Wall’s land restoration ambition, a new sourcing challenge has been launched at UNCCD COP15 Green Business Forum in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire. The Sahel sourcing challenge calls on the global supply chains managers to upscale the use of sustainably produced Sahelian ingredients, such as bambara nut, baobab, moringa, gum Arabic and fonio, from the Sahel's small-scale producers as a way to create new economic opportunities for local populations. Sahel region is one of the most vulnerable places on Earth, where the temperatures are rising 1.5 times faster than the global average and where increasing desertification, drought and resource scarcity, leading to radicalization, conflict and migration. An African-led movement to inspire the world, the Great Green Wall is an epic vision to create a 8,000 km-long mosaic of projects across the continent that support land restoration, create 10 million jobs and promise a better a future. UNCCD is a key partner of the Great Green Wall Initiative, working with businesses and major corporate partners to create green jobs and transform the Sahel through market-driven, sustainable ethical supply chains. “The Great Green Wall challenge has a huge potential to help combat land degradation. By creating demand for the Sahel’s underutilized ingredients, the private sector can play a pivotal role in the creation of local economic development and the subsequent environmental and social impact that new value chains will bring,” says Nick Salter, co-founder of Aduna. Aduna, together with WhatIf Foods, Unilever, Evonik, Doehler, the World Economic Forum and the Global Shea Alliance, is among the major businesses and platforms that are working on the challenge and calling on others to follow suit and work with UNCCD and Business Fights Poverty to make the challenge a world-class success. “We're looking to be not just buyers, but to support communities. Improving livelihoods and soil fertility are in everyone's best interests,” says Scott Poynton, CEO and Founder of The Pond Foundation and WhatIf Foods Partner. Follow the Great Green Wall progress on the Web, on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

New business challenge to boost the use of Sahelian products in support of the Great Green Wall
UNCCD COP15 Great Green Wall Head of States Meeting: statement by Executive Secretary Ibrahim Thiaw

Excellencies, The Great Green Wall is an historic opportunity. An opportunity for the Sahel - and for each of the GGW states - to deliver something truly remarkable. A renaissance for land and the natural world.  And - just as important - true resilience and a renaissance for communities on the frontline of climate change and poverty. The GGW is an inspiration and a beacon of hope for humanity worldwide. At a time when people need inspiration and hope.  For that Excellencies, you are to be congratulated. However, projects of this ambition and magnitude do not materialize on inspiration and hope alone. They need financial support.  Good governance.  And coordinated action. The pledges made at the One Planet Summit in January 2021 totaled USD19 billion for the period until 2025.  So, while progress is there, we cannot congratulate ourselves. Hope is not yet turning into action at the scale or pace you aspire to.  Because collectively, we are struggling to turn those pledges into projects and investments.  Understandably, this is leading to frustrations. There are, indeed, lots of bottlenecks. To my mind though, two critical bottlenecks have emerged. Coordination at national level. The complexity of accessing financing – the donor system. Firstly, I am convinced genuine national ownership – led by you, your Excellencies - and a national coalition for action would make progress happen faster.  In each country, the GGW is a massive undertaking.  With the best will in the world, neither the national Agency of the GGW, as currently set up, nor a single line ministry can make all the necessary wheels turn.  At national level, a more joined-up “all of government” response is needed.  The Ministry of Planning and Development or Treasury have an important role to play.  Along with the Ministry of Environment, Agriculture, Infrastructure or Energy as technical focal points. Concerned local authorities, the private sector, civil society and research should be fully engaged.  But government – at all levels – can take steps to assume its responsibilities more effectively.  In the case of Senegal, we noted the creation of Presidential Council, led by his Excellency President Macky Sall, that is guiding and accelerating this work in Senegal.  Each country will need to establish their own institutional framework. We would however suggest you consider setting up a political oversight, close to you.   Secondly though, we would all acknowledge that the current system for accessing the pledged financing is complex and cumbersome at best. International partners are better coordinated than ever around a common results framework.  But to access the financing, currently, your officials must navigate the different processes and timelines of the ten international partners who have committed to support you.  Accessing much of the funds will take a great deal of upfront investment of staff resources and a considerable time.  With your bold and ambitious timeline, this business-as-usual approach will not work. As Heads of State and Government, you might consider requesting the simplification and streamlining of the way financing is channeled to you – potentially through a common window, joint assessment or more co-funding of projects. You may want to task your Ministries in charge of Planning or Economy to lead the Programmatic Coordination with donors. We may need to follow adequate, perhaps specific procedures. It is certainly recommended that each Government set up a robust programmatic team to unlock the financing.      Excellencies, a Sahelian renaissance awaits.  With the restoration of land and nature and the right investments for a resilient and vibrant future, we can capitalize on the inspiration and hope and the unique opportunity that the GGW offers.  Thank you.

UNCCD COP15 Great Green Wall Head of States Meeting: statement by Executive Secretary Ibrahim Thiaw
Remarks by Ibrahim Thiaw at the virtual meeting preparatory to the 8th session of the council of ministers

Honorable Ministers, colleagues, and friends. Firstly.  Thank you.  It is a great pleasure being here – even if virtually. The Sahel is seen as the crucible of existential challenges. Irregular migration, armed conflicts, non-state actors, terrorism and organized crime, as well as poverty and food insecurity. Yet amazing things can happen if we have the commitment and passion of political leaders. With faith and investment in the ingenuity of the people.  And with a bold and joint international response and actions. The Great Green Wall is such an example! True, in the back of our minds, we have always thought of the Great Green Wall as an impossible dream.    But that is no longer the case.  And we must adjust our mindsets. Slowly but surely, 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. In January 2021, US$ 19 billion has been pledged at the One Planet Summit. This is a huge commitment from the international community. The partners committed themselves to work at an accelerated pace. We have collectively agreed to a harmonized results framework. National coalitions are being set up. There is a real sense of buzz about the Great Green Wall.  In Africa and around the world. And that is critical.  In a world that looks at the Sahel region and sees only despair, the Great Green Wall offers hope. In a world struggling to work out what “building back better”, or climate resilience or sustainable development or nature-based solution really looks like, the Great Green Wall makes tangible and practical sense. The concept of the GGW works because it addresses the loss of natural resources - as the root cause of a myriad of other challenges. But it also works because it is rewriting the narrative of the Sahel - restoring lost livelihoods and generating jobs and income for the people.  There is bold African leadership. There is a plan to harness the potential of the region and its people.  And the international community has rallied and is getting coordinated. The 11 GGW countries have a huge role to play, to make it happen. The good news is, it can be done. It must be done. It will be done. And today we are here to discuss how we will get it done – faster and most effectively. Pipelines of bankable projects are emerging, though I have to admit, projects are only slowly emerging. As your loyal and unwavering partner, the UNCCD is committed to help sweep away the many bottlenecks to action at the national level. More than a year has passed since the pledges were made. However, implementation remains scanty. There are multiple administrative hurdles that are slowing us down; bureaucratic issues are preventing people of the Sahel from having access to resources they badly need. These challenges must be overcome quickly, if we want to turn the tide on the vicious circle observed in the Sahel.  For long, we have been advising to bring together honorable environment with treasury and planning Ministers to unlock some of the challenges that have been observed. Indeed, we hope that countries will use an “all of government” approach to getting it done – faster and with more direct benefits to the people of the Region. Allow me to insist on the role of Ministers of Finance, Economy or Planning. The pledges made last year will be delivered with the full participation of fund authorization officers at the national level. Through an integrated approach where different sectoral departments will be brought together: from agriculture to the environment; from energy to livestock; from local authorities to civil society and research. The GGW belongs to all: youth; women; farmers and pastoralists. In short, the GGW will be achieved with the people of the Sahel. Or will never be. Thank you all for being here. Together, I am sure we can make it happen. Thank you.

Remarks by Ibrahim Thiaw at the virtual meeting preparatory to the 8th session of the council of ministers
Mapping baobab trees for the Great Green Wall

The UNCCD is partnering with GLOBHE on the use of innovative technology to better assess tree populations along the Great Green Wall GLOBHE is a drone service company that provides earth observations for a sustainable future, deploying drones through local operators to collect high-resolution data, which helps  organizations and researchers to plan and action at the right place, at the right scale and at the right time. The joint project with UNCCD will focus on combining macro satellite data with high-resolution micro data from drones to accelerate the verification of tree species in Northern Ghana, supporting the implementation of the Great Green Wall, an African-led movement to restore 100 million hectares of currently degraded land, sequester 250 million tons of carbon and create 10 million green jobs by 2030. Baobab is the icon of the African landscape, revered as the tree of life that provides essential shelter, produces nutrient-dense fruits and stores water from the rainy season for the dry season. They can live up to 5000, growing to 50 meters in circumference and reach up to 30 meters high.  We, at GLOBHE, are proud to be part of this unprecedented initiative with the UNCCD and its partners. By improving the understanding of tree populations, stakeholders will be in a position to accelerate the development of sustainable business models that directly benefit local communities. We love these types of initiatives that put drone technology to good use for both the people and the planet  –  Arnaud Henneville-Wedholm, Head of Sales & Business Development at GLOBHE  image (c) MakeWaves Media

Mapping baobab trees for the Great Green Wall
UNCCD at Expo Dubai 2020: Harnessing the potential of the Sahel

As rich in culture, music and inspired people as the Sahel itself, the UNCCD event at Expo Dubai 2020 “Spotlight on Africa | Spotlighting the Sahel: Climate-Resilient Solutions towards achieving Food Security” marked a big step toward changing the world’s perception of the region. Rather than an area hindered by civil unrest and economic turmoil, the positive narrative of the Sahel’s showcases its potential: the abundance of natural resources, infinite deposits of renewable energy and the youngest population in the world. Along with a strong momentum for positive change, Sahel faces major development challenges, including the pressing need to adapt to changing climate and create opportunities for the new generation. In his opening remarks, the UNCCD Executive Secretary Ibrahim Thiaw highlighted that the potential of the Sahel to overcome these hurdles lies in the abundant resources including vast landscapes waiting to be restored to productivity. Sahel’s natural endowments offer immense potential for economic diversification, value-chain development and livelihoods. And its population is the youngest in the world – a challenge that can be turned into an opportunity. — UNCCD Executive Secretary Ibrahim Thiaw The event at Dubai Expo placed youth, women and smallholder farmers, herders and social entrepreneurs at the center of the conversation on the challenges and opportunities facing the Sahel. It featured initiatives that are accelerating socio-economic growth and enabling shared prosperity in the Sahel, such as Great Green Wall, to find solutions to address food security and climate change in the Sahel, including in implementing the Agenda 2030. Reflecting on the progress of the Great Green Wall Initiative, the participants agreed that it has far surpassed its initial vision of planting trees, becoming a platform that translates positive thinking into actions. The restoration of 20 million hectares of land in the Sahel, creation of 350,000 jobs, training of 10 million people on sustainable ways to manage the land and water and subsequent mobilization of nearly 20 billion hectares to move forward has inspired action at the local level. Harnessing indigenous knowledge and creating diversified value chains have been emphasized as essential to supporting the future progress of the initiative. The event showcased successful green entrepreneurs, many of them young women, who are convinced that in the Sahel, all the opportunities the youth needs exist at home. From agroforestry to producing eco-friendly coffee alternatives, the Sahel is awaiting young hands to revive the land, mine its “green gold,” drive climate action and achieve zero hunger. Performances of Sahelian visual and music artists, including the Malian singer and UNCCD Land Ambassador Inna Modja, have also made the event very memorable. Inna shared what motivated her to travel along the Great Green Wall and meet with communities engaged in land restoration: “I am awed by the ambition of the project and what it can achieve. The Great Green Wall is the future. We sow the seeds in this lifetime, so that the future generations can reap the harvest.” The event was co-organized by UNCCD and the African Union in association with the United Arab Emirates Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change. Learn more: Watch the recording Land and the Sustainable Development Goals Achieving Land Degradation Neutrality Great Green Wall Accelerator

UNCCD at Expo Dubai 2020: Harnessing the potential of the Sahel
UNCCD-led Drought Toolbox

Requested in The COP 13 as part of the Drought Initiative, the toolbox is being designed to provide drought stakeholders with easy access to tools, case studies and other resources to support the design of National Drought Policy Plan with the aim to boost the resilience of people and ecosystems to drought. The Drought Toolbox is currently being developed as part of the Drought Initiative through the close partnership among UNCCD, WMO, FAO, GWP, the Joint Research Centre of the European Union, the National Drought Mitigation Center (NDMC) of the University of Nebraska, and UNEP-DHI.      

UNCCD-led Drought Toolbox