Two-thirds of the African continent is desert or drylands. This land is vital for agriculture and food production, however nearly three-fourths of it is estimated to be degraded. The region is affected by frequent droughts, which have been particularly severe in recent years in the Horn of Africa and the Sahel.
Poverty and difficult socio-economic conditions are widespread, and as a result many people are dependent on natural resources for their livelihoods. For many African countries, fighting land degradation and desertification and mitigating the effects of drought are prerequisites for economic growth and social progress. Increasing sustainable land management (SLM) and building resilience to drought in Africa can have profound positive impacts that reach from the local to the global level.
The UNCCD Regional Implementation Annex for Africa outlines an approach for addressing desertification, land degradation and drought (DLDD) on the African continent. This Annex is the most detailed and comprehensive of all the regional annexes to the Convention.
Africa: Regional cooperation
All African countries are Parties to the UNCCD. Most African countries have developed and submitted National Action Programmes (NAPs). The preparation of NAPs is a dynamic, continuous process and the status of each country is subject to change over time.
The current African RAP outlines were adopted at a ministerial level in 1999 and compose six thematic programme networks (TPNs) that concern:
- Integrated water management
- Soil conservation
- Rangeland management
- Ecological monitoring and early warning systems
- New and renewable energy sources and technologies
- Sustainable agricultural farming systems
Since the adoption of the UNCCD’s Ten-Year Strategy, the sub-regional entities have begun aligning their action programmes to it, particularly the North, Central and Western African programmes. The other two sub-regions have benefited from training by the UNCCD on how to align their programmes to the Strategy. It is expected that the alignment of the SRAPs to the Strategy will improve their effectiveness in achieving land degradation neutrality (LDN) in the region.
After the Strategy was adopted, regional cooperation has received increasing attention within UNCCD decision-making. An important demonstration of this is decision 3/COP 9, which calls for strengthening the effectiveness and efficiency of regional coordination mechanisms, with the view to facilitate cooperation among affected parties within the regions, enhance synergies among relevant institutions and organizations, and respond to existing and emerging challenges, capacities and specific issues.
Achievements since decision 3/COP 9:
- A regional consultative committee was established in November 2012 in Algiers to guide and support regional coordination
- A regional work programme was drafted as a practical framework for joint activities and coordination within the region
- A regional coordination unit (RCU) for Africa, hosted by the African Development Bank in Tunis, has been strengthened
Contact Regional Liaison Office for Africa (Annex I)
212 537 666 301
Eaux et Forêts, Avenue Mohamed VI, Km 7,5
Soussi, Rabat 10170, Morocco
Mr. Cheikh Toure
- Regional Liaison Officer
- ctoure [at] unccd.int (ctoureatunccddotint)
By Zohra (20) from Sudan via UNICEF Middle East and North Africa Regional Office I've got a story that needs to be heard. Imagine waking up to the realities of climate change daily. That's our life here. Imagine the heaviest rain you've ever seen. Now imagine it wreaking havoc on your home, your community. That was our June last year. 161,000 of us were affected; unfortunately, most were my fellow sisters and friends. And beyond the immediate threats like food insecurity, more lurked in the shadows, like increased malnutrition. Flooding isn't new to us, but this... it was something we hadn’t seen for decades. Over 15,000 homes were washed away. But it’s not just about bricks and mortar. For many girls, this disaster meant a pause in education, and sadly, a heightened risk of early marriages and facing violence at home. For our friends relying on farming, particularly in places like Al-Manqal, the floods hit them hard. Picture this: 2,900 acres of farmland underwater. That’s like someone swiping away your entire year's allowance! And, ugh, the power outages that followed? Let’s just say candlelit dinners lost their charm real fast. Regions like Kassala Sennar, North Darfur, South Kordofan, and the White Nile were the epicentres of this disaster. Already wrestling with past conflicts, climate change just turned up the heat on their challenges. And approximately 6,500 children don’t have a school to return to. We need to act, like, yesterday. Clean water supplies are a must to kick out water-borne diseases. And we need to get some educational supplies for the flood-hit zones. It's a race against time and every little help matters. It’s a tug-of-war between increasing conflicts, massive displacements, and an ever-growing fight for resources. Climate change is just fanning the flames. But together, we can make a difference. Let's stop this cycle before it spirals out of control.
By Tina (35) Egypt via UNICEF Middle East and North Africa Regional Office My name is Tina from Egypt, and if you're reading this, you're probably as eco-curious as I am! Let me take you on a journey from my humble abode in Upper Egypt, where the golden sands meet green fields, and stories of climate change get a little twist! Imagine a farming village with chirping birds and vast green stretches. That's my home. Everyone I know is deep into agriculture. We don’t just live here; we vibe with nature! But, and here's the big BUT – most people are in the dark about climate change. The delicate dance between us and Mother Earth? It's missing a few steps. A few of us eco-warriors decided to stir things up. Composting? Check. Recycling agricultural waste? Double-check. Organic fertilizers? Oh, you bet. We’re talking about sustainable living at its finest. The best part? 300 farmers (yes, you read that right) joined the green brigade. Our baby project even landed us in the top 10 of a national competition with 150 organizations! We wanted to do more than just catch people's attention. We wanted to change our mindsets. So, we brainstormed and launched "Us and Climate Change." The plan was to equip teachers to be climate mentors, giving them the low-down on the climate crisis so they can inspire the next gen. At our recent gallery event, we showcased not just the beauty of recycling, from chic recycled outfits to innovative school tools, but also the power of performance. The spotlight was undeniably on “Al-Barsha Panorama”, our very own theatre group. In Upper Egypt, street theatre isn't just entertainment; it's an educational tool and a heartbeat that resonates deeply with our community. Our ultimate dream? A world where we can freely drink clean water, savor healthy food and take in pure, unadulterated air. With every performance, with every piece of art we create, we're advocating for that pristine environment. And while the goal is clear – an untouched landscape with unblemished access to essentials – we're also proving that blending this mission with art, special forms that connect so deeply with our people, can be both impactful and soul-stirring. Our art is our voice against climate change, and it’s making waves in our community.
Last week a group of African innovation leaders from the Great Green Wall joined a workshop in the Negev region of Israel to exchange knowledge with local innovative startup companies. The workshop is part of the DeserTech initiative that explores new ways of addressing desert-related challenges through technology and innovation while upscaling Africa's innovation ecosystem. Participants have been selected through an open application process that invited Innovators, entrepreneurs, corporate entities, investors, policy makers and non-governmental organizations from the Great Green Wall countries to explore innovative technologies and new business models that generate collaborations to restore degraded land, while creating business opportunities and jobs. The DeserTech is an innovation community, developed as a joint initiative of the Merage Foundation Israel, the Israel Innovation Institute, The Ministry of Environmental Protection and Ben Gurion University of the Negev. Located in Be'er Sheva, it promotes development, adaptation and commercialization of technologies that enable sustainable living in arid climates, while transforming the region into a global entrepreneurial hub. Earlier in the programme, 30 DeserTech Innovation Leaders from Great Green Wall countries joined a series of online workshops to identify the challenges in need of innovative tech solutions. Specific challenges include rainwater harvesting and conservation, high precision underground water detection, off-grid solar energy production, water desalinization for agricultural use, development of drought-resilient seed varieties, vertical farming, optimizing soil health and planting processes, implementing solar-powered precision irrigation, innovative roof gardening solutions, solar-powered cold storage and weather-forecasting tools. All challenges have been posted on the DeserTech marketplace. The Great Green Wall workshop in Negev also cast project teams that will be working on concrete project proposals and business models over the coming weeks, to be presented to potential donors and supporters later this year. The Great Green Wall is a flagship African-led initiative to create a mosaic of healthy productive landscapes across Africa, protect the climate and improve livelihoods. It aims to restore100 million hectares of degraded land by 2030, capture 250 million tons of carbon and create ten million green jobs in the Sahel region that includes Burkina Faso, Chad, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal and Sudan.
Two years on since the One Planet Summit, 80 percent of the US$19 billion pledged towards the Great Green Wall Accelerator has been programmed across the 11 African nations that are part of the initiative. However, continued political leadership and country ownership, targeted action at all levels, and strengthened institutional arrangements are required to realize the vision of this Africa-led movement.
The sun beats down on the dusty streets of Bol, a small town on the shores of Lake Chad. As the locals go about their daily lives, the sounds of laughter and chatter fill the air. For many, living here is a constant struggle, threatened by drought, insecurity, and poverty. But against all odds, the people of Bol have shown remarkable resilience. It all begins with the land. The Lake Chad region, home to approximately 30 million people, has been grappling with the impacts of drought and desertification for decades. Since the 1960s, the lake has shrunk by 90% due to climate change and overuse of resources. The arid land requires significant effort to cultivate and sustain livelihoods, yet the people of Bol have never lost hope. By finding new ways to farm and care for their land, they have learned to adapt to the changing climate and boost drought resilience. One such solution is land restoration. Bol is one of the many communities along the Great Green Wall and has been actively involved in this Africa-led initiative spanning 11 countries across the continent, from Senegal to Djibouti. With the help of local communities, the Great Green Wall Initiative is restoring degraded land, creating a vital source of income for families and empowering women and youth. “We have community farms that are supported by the Agency of the Great Green Wall by providing water and solar panels for the people to work the land,” says Abakar Thiéré, Head of the Lake Chad branch of the Great Green Wall Initiative. Head of the Lake Chad branch of the Great Green Wall Abakar Thiéré The Sahel region has long faced severe, complex security and humanitarian crises. The Boko Haram insurgency is one of the many threats facing the Sahel region. The story of Hassan Amad Muhamad, a resident of Bol, is a powerful example of the town’s resilience. Hassan escaped a life of violence and found hope and a new livelihood as a tractor driver in Bol after completing a three-year training programme. His story is emblematic of the town’s ability to overcome adversity and build a better future. Hassan Amad Muhamad Similarly, the people of Bol have displayed their adaptability and determination in the face of environmental challenges. In response to the extreme drought affecting Lake Chad, they have collaborated with local authorities to develop innovative water management solutions. They have constructed underground cisterns and implemented drip irrigation systems, enabling them to grow crops even in the driest seasons. These techniques have provided essential food and income for families in the community. Central to Bol’s resilience is its strong sense of community. Women, in particular, have formed support groups, pooling resources and knowledge to help one another thrive. These groups have been critical in fostering economic empowerment and resilience in the face of adversity. “When we talk about Lake Chad, women matter. They are the first to get affected by all the crises surrounding the Lake. Men usually respond to the challenges by leaving. Women stay and take care of everything. Women have development of their knowledge in the face of these adversities, they have been resilience in the face of the challenges,” says Hindou Oumarou Ibrahim , President of the Association for Indigenous Women and Peoples of Chad (AFPAT). Bol’s story is a remarkable testament to the power of resilience in the face of adversity. Through collaboration and innovation, the people of Bol have shown that it is possible to find hope and build a better future, even in the most difficult of circumstances. This story is part of a series that seeks to shed light on community drought resilience strategies from various regions around the world. By showcasing these often-untold stories, we hope to inspire and share best practices with others facing similar challenges. Recognizing the urgent need to shift from reactive to proactive approaches in tackling drought and its impacts, the International Drought Resilience Alliance (IDRA) was launched by the leaders of Spain and Senegal at the UN Climate Summit in November 2022, with 30 countries and 20 entities as founding members.
One year into the project, the collaboration between UNCCD, FAO, Aduna, Orgiis and GLOBHE already bears fruit: individual baobab trees can be now recognized from space and a computer system has been trained to plot them on a map. In the Sahel region, where trees play an important role in fixating soils, providing a barrier to land degradation and supporting food security, the baobab is particularly valued, as its fruit not only has a variety of local uses, but can also be a viable commercial export and a source of sustainable income. An icon of the African landscape revered as the tree of life, baobabs cannot be grown on plantations. Proudly standing big and wild, each one is unique and cherished by local communities, as it provides nourishment for people and their animals. Faced with the advance of the climate change, growing energy needs, rapid urbanization and a depleting stock of seedlings that grow to maturity, these green giants need to be carefully monitored and protected. Recent advances in the spatial resolution and availability of satellite imagery have enabled the detection of individual trees from space. Using FAO’s cloud computing platform SEPAL and dense time-series approaches helps identify individual tree species through phenology, or the seasonal foliage pattern, often unique to individual species. The next challenge was pinning down the actual locations of baobab trees and “training” a classification system to extrapolate and predict the tree species associated with each tree canopy. Drone data provided by GLOBHE at a very high spatial resolution allows identification of baobabs, and the tree locations are then combined with the phenology data to map individual baobabs over vast geographic regions. The resulting maps can be used to inform local communities of the location, number and condition of the baobabs, and enable them “to visualize and analyze high resolution satellite imagery from their mobile phones, allowing to actively monitor and protect this natural resource,” says Yelena Finegold, FAO Forestry Officer. This collaboration between global satellite data providers, drone operators, the private enterprise, the UN and local communities, including women and youth, is a major step toward improving monitoring, conservation and restoration methods in the Sahel. As the project advances toward mapping the baobabs over larger geographical areas, it can also support the implementation of the Great Green Wall Initiative. Better understanding of where to conserve and invest in long-term sustainable use of baobabs can promote value chain development and enable better land management decisions to monitor and safeguard these green powerhouses that provide sustenance, store water and enrich the land. image (c) MakeWaves Media