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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
Great Green Wall Implementation Report

The Great Green Wall is a symbol of hope in the face of one of the biggest challenges of our time – desertification. Launched in 2007 by the African Union, this game-changing African-led initiative aims to restore Africa’s degraded landscapes and transform millions of lives in one of the world’s poorest regions, the Sahel. Once complete, the Wall will be the largest living structure on the planet – an 8,000 km natural wonder of the world stretching across the entire width of the continent.

Great Green Wall Implementation Report
UN Bonn podcast with UNCCD Land Ambassador Inna Modja

The latest episode of the 'Inside UN Bonn' podcast, released on 2 February, features the Malian musician and UNCCD Land Ambassador Inna Modja who talks about her work for the Great Green Wall (GGW) Initiative. "We're growing new lungs for the planet" – this is how Inna describes the GGW Initiative that aims to restore Africa’s degraded landscapes, fight the climate crisis and transform millions of lives. Inna says that her passion for the project reflects in all her work – as a musician, visual artist and women's right advocate. It also inspires her to explore new outlets to generate support for the GGW. In collaboration with other digital artists, she recently launched a charitable non-fungible token (NFT) art drop to help finance women-led land restoration solutions in the Sahel. The podcast is available on Spotify  | Google podcasts | Apple podcasts   Read more: Great Green Wall initiative Land and gender Land and climate UNCCD Land Ambassadors Charitable NFT event will fund women-led solutions along the Great Green Wall  

UN Bonn podcast with UNCCD Land Ambassador Inna Modja
NFT event to fund women-led solutions in the Great Green Wall

Women and climate is the focus of a new charitable non-fungible token (NFT) art drop, launched 21 January on the margins of the World Economic Forum’s digital edition of Davos. It will land on the pioneering marketplace SuperRare, featuring digital artwork inspired by the interlinked challenges of gender equality and climate justice.  This carbon-net negative event is a collaboration between the climate tech non-profit Code Green co-founded by  UNCCD Land Ambassador Inna Modja and the World of Women NFT collection that unites female artists to celebrate women’s diversity and power. Inna says she was inspired to create this auction by her experience traveling along the Great Green Wall — an African-led initiative growing an 8000-km green corridor across the continent to improve the lives of millions of women on the frontline of climate change.  "Being from Mali, I have seen with my own eyes that women and girls disproportionately bear the brunt of the global climate emergency. They are the main stewards of natural resources like land, making up 80 per cent of the agricultural workforce. Through absolutely no fault of their own, climate change is destroying their livelihoods and sparking widespread food insecurity, mass migration and conflict. The Great Green Wall is a powerful solution that can help empower women to take charge of their own destinies." — Inna Modja Inna contributed some of her own artwork to the Women and Climate charitable NFT drop that will channel 70 per cent of all proceeds to women-led land restoration solutions along the Great Green Wall. Image: Twin Mamas by Inna Modja Read more: Great Green Wall initiative Land and gender UNCCD Land Ambassadors NFT community supports climate action, sustainably

NFT event to fund women-led solutions in the Great Green Wall
Remarks by UNCCD ES Ibrahim Thiaw at 61st GEF Council

Agenda item on Relations with Conventions and other International Institutions (Agenda item.10) Co-Chairs, Council members, Ladies and Gentlemen, I am grateful for this opportunity to brief the Council again. The Council meets at a time when the world is grappling with the increasing challenges in the path to sustainable development. You are meeting this time round when land restoration is becoming more relevant by the day. I see the beginning of a large-scale land restoration movement across the world. When World Leaders speak of trillion trees to be planted, we should translate these into hectares of land being restored. Restoring degraded lands, as you know, generates revenues for poor populations. Land restoration also brings more food to the hungry and to the markets. It’s restoring ecosystems and biodiversity. When they say planting trees, we should hear enhancing resilience to the climate crisis while sequestering large quantities of carbon from the atmosphere and bringing carbon back to where it belongs, to the soil. Just last month at the UNFCCC COP26 in Glasgow, more than 140 countries agreed on a common declaration, namely the Glasgow Leader’s Declaration on Forests and Land Use. Leaders committed to working together to reverse forest loss and land degradation by 2030. We now need to move rapidly from Summit Declarations to real implementation on the ground. Another positive outcome of Glasgow was the Bezos Earth pledge of $1 billion dollars for landscape restoration in Africa, especially for  the implementation of the Great Green Wall. The pledges to the Great Green Wall are now totaling more than 19 billion dollars. This Africa-led land restoration initiative, which you are familiar with, would not be possible without the incubation of the GEF. The Great Green Wall is one the concrete examples of a program, which, from its early stages, benefited from the support of the GEF. When only few believed on the Great Green Wall, the GEF saw the potential of a glass half full. Today, banks and other financial institutions are investing on the Great Green Wall. This is a concrete demonstration that investing in nature can be a profitable business, even in the Sahel, one of the harshest conditions on Earth. UNCCD is working closely with all partners and the 11 countries of  the GGW to develop mechanisms that allow better access to the existing funds to help address land restoration, drought, renewable energies, youth and women’s employment across the Sahel region. I would like to express our gratitude once again to you, as members of the Council, and to the GEF Secretariat, for your trust and support. Today, we are happy to see similar initiatives being developed in other parts of the world. Again, a concrete case of what a successful demonstration programme can do, namely, to serve as an example and to emulate. In that respect, the Middle East Green Initiative announced in March 2021 was launched in Riyadh last month. It aims, among others, to restore 200 million hectares across the Greater Middle East. In parallel, Saudi Arabia launched its own national green initiative, which aims at restoring 40 million hectares of degraded land. Similar initiatives are already in place in India, Pakistan, China. We are pleased to see other countries developing similar plans, including Mongolia, the countries of the dry corridor of Latin America, as well the countries of Southern Africa, under the SADC umbrella. In addition, just two weeks ago, I signed in Riyadh an agreement with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to set up the Secretariat of the "G20 Global Initiative on Reducing Land Degradation and Enhancing Conservation of Terrestrial Habitats”, that is the initiative launched by the G20 leaders under the Saudi G20 Presidency in November 2020. Under this initiative, the G20 leaders aim to prevent, halt and reverse land degradation across the world through private sector engagement, civil society empowerment, knowledge sharing and development.  The ambition here is to achieve a 50% reduction in degraded land by 2040. This will support other existing initiatives, adding momentum to the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration. Ladies and Gentlemen, Dear Council members, We, at UNCCD, are now focusing on our upcoming COP15, which will be held in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire – the 2nd and 3rd weeks of May of 2022. Two topics are likely to be discussed by Parties amongst others: Firstly: Parties will review the report of the Intergovernmental working Group on drought, which was set up by the previous COP in New Delhi. Unfortunately, droughts are hitting every year more countries, more communities, more economies, and more ecosystems. As we speak, millions of people are deprived from food and basic needs in Eastern Africa and in Madagascar. It is really heartbreaking to see people starving, large mammals drying literally in the deserts; and millions of hectares of forests burning all over the world. Secondly: Large scale land restoration is likely to come up as a big topic at the next COP, the world seems to be finally waking up to the importance of nature-based solutions. This movement is now unstoppable. The smartest private investors have gotten the message. It is a critical moment for the GEF as we have on sight the early results of our 30 years of investment in nature. Thirty years of demonstration, research, and science. The moment has now come to move to large scale. In my recent trip to Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire, Government authorities expressed their interest in developing what they call a « legacy programme ». As proud hosts to UNCCD COP15 and a country whose economy is largely dependent on agriculture, they want to invest on their best asset, namely: LAND. Hence, boosting long term environmental sustainability across major value chains.  Investing in large-scale sustainable management of land and soils in Côte d’Ivoire is investing in the country’s best asset: its natural capital. This will help protect and restore forests and lands and improving communities’ resilience to climate change. It’s an opportunity for UNCCD, GEF and other partners to work together to support this programme, which will help restore land and ensure sustainable development. That is the large-scale land management we are inviting GEF partners to consider, when moving ahead with the eighth replenishment of the facility. Keeping in view the emerging challenges that today’s world is facing, we hope that the replenishment of GEF-8 will find innovative, and creative ways to address these challenges. UNCCD will continue working with its Parties to set and update their voluntary land degradation neutrality targets and to develop projects to meet these targets. Most parties have developed national drought plans with UNCCD’s assistance; they are looking for support to implement these plans. Drought is an increasing threat due to the unpredictable changes in the world’s environment and there is a dire need of financing to enhance resilience and implement measures to combat effects of drought. So, allow me to close reminding us of the two issues that come high in the world’s attention: Drought management and mitigating the impacts of drought. Second, sustainable land management, large-scale land restoration. These, ladies and gentlemen, are important issues that also concern climate change, biodiversity, food, and human wellbeing. They are at the heart of what GEF is all about, and what GEF-8 should be focusing on. I thank you.

Remarks by UNCCD ES Ibrahim Thiaw at 61st GEF Council