The Great Green Wall (GGW) is one of the most audacious efforts in human history, because the GGW countries are faced with conflict, migration, poverty and hunger at the same time, and at an unprecedented level.
Now that a new Director General has taken over at the helm of affairs at the National Agency for Great Green Wall (NAGGW), it is time for a general reappraisal of the essence of the agency in order to properly situate it in the blueprint of building a new and robust Nigeria where the youth shall find a pride of place.
Recently, the Federal Government appointed Dr Bukar Hassan as the new DG of the NAGGW, replacing Mr Ahmed Goni, who had been the Director General since the inception of the agency until his recent disengagement after his four years of tenure elapsed. It is gladdening to note that the new DG will easily fit into the agency because he has always been part of the green family.
Hassan was once the Head of Project Implementation Unit of the Great Green Wall, and Director, Drought and Desertification Amelioration at the Federal Ministry of Environment. He rose to become the Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Environment in 2015, and was redeployed to Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development in 2017 until his retirement in September 2018.
Meanwhile, it is essential to recognise the laudable milestones achieved by the outgoing DG, Goni. In a country where budgets are apportioned to other projects without question and when it concerns green issues eyebrows are raised, one needs to appreciate the efforts of the outgoing Great Green Wall agency boss as a trail blazer in the issue of national building and environmental rejuvenation.
Goni and the former Minister of Environment who is now the Deputy Secretary General of the United Nations, Amina Mohammed, had worked tirelessly for the mainstreaming of the Great Green Wall project in the Nigerian developmental administration. Just before Ms Mohammed left Nigeria to resume her new duties at the UN, she had lauded the merits of the project and affirmed that there was light at the end of the tunnel because GGW was an initiative of solidarity among a family of countries across the Sahel and the Sahara that were taking collective responsibility.
The Nigerian Great Green Wall Programme was commenced because Nigeria is a signatory to the GGW Convention. Later in 2015, in committing to the implementation of the Initiative, Nigeria established the National Agency for the Great Green Wall to coordinate the implementation. Also, a Strategic Action Plan was developed to serve as the programme implementation framework.
The Strategic Action Plan is a five-year plan with the goal of improving the wellbeing of the affected people and reducing their vulnerability to the impact of desertification orchestrated by climate change through improved use of land and other natural resources for sustainable development and support to climate infrastructure. The development objective is to combat land degradation and desertification in Nigeria in order to protect and restore ecosystems and essential ecosystem services that are key to reducing poverty, enhancing food security, and promoting sustainable livelihoods.
The Great Green Wall for Sahel and Sahara Initiative (GGWSSI) is more than creating a wall of trees stretching from Senegal in West Africa to Djibouti in East Africa. It is a metaphor to depict a mosaic of integrated interventions tackling the multiple challenges affecting the lives of people in the Sahel and Sahara areas. It is an African Union programme bringing together 20 countries from the Sahelo-Saharan region including Algeria, Burkina Faso, Benin, Chad, Cape Verde, Djibouti, Egypt, Ethiopia, Libya, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Somalia, Sudan, The Gambia and Tunisia.
The implementation of the Initiative in Nigeria encompasses the eleven frontline states of Adamawa, Bauchi, Borno, Gombe, Jigawa, Kano, Katsina, Kebbi, Sokoto, Yobe and Zamfara. Desertification is one of the major environmental challenges in Nigeria threatening the livelihoods of over 50 million people in these states. It involves the establishment of a greenbelt covering 1500km from Dandi Arewa Local Government Area of Kebbi State to Marte in Borno State.
So, on a wider scale, The Great Green Wall Initiative holds the key to the future of African drylands. It is a daring initiative that has the potential to bring back to the continent food and water security, create jobs and new economic opportunities, help in fighting climate change and allow people not to only survive but to thrive sustainably.
In Nigeria to be specific, the initiative remains the major mechanism that can be used to ensure the sustainable development of the drylands, combat rural poverty and create hope for the affected people. Within the framework of the GGW programme, it has been envisaged that about 22,500sqkm of degraded land in the dry region of the country will be rehabilitated for agricultural production and the livelihoods of over 25 million people will be improved by the year 2030.
It will also help immensely in the rehabilitation of the Internally Displaced People (IDPS) by creating job opportunities, managing income generation activities and systematically reclaiming degraded farmlands. In addition, it will reduce farmers – herders’ conflicts by creating grazing reserves and fodder farms in the Northern dry land areas. This way, the rate of South-ward migration of herders shall significantly reduce.
Nevertheless, there are vital points to note as Nigeria enters another phase in the Great Green Wall implementation. The first is finance. The project cannot go far if the government does not fund it properly. As it stands today, the agency is still living from hand to mouth, because it is not well-funded. It is supposed to receive 15% of the Ecological Fund but all evidence points to the fact that it is not doing so.
Secondly, the agency is very important, but it has yet to become very visible in the consciousness of most Nigerians. This is necessary because it is an inter-sectoral agency that has a crosscutting job across many aspects of our nationhood. Therefore, its success is the Nigerian success, as many other countries in the Great Green Wall belt are looking up to us.
To be candid, the agency needs to involve the youth more. The future belongs to them, and the GGW holds the key to a sustainable future. There must be a strategic resuscitation of the entire sustainability value chain – livestock, horticulture, etc – in the Great Green Wall. This way, young people shall be empowered not only in the North but in the other parts of the country where services are provided, and raw materials processed; effectively taking 60 million youths out of poverty in the near future.
Finally, the incoming DG has before him a great opportunity to make history. He needs to build the capacity of the staff of the agency, while ensuring that modern technologies are employed to create a synergy between his various teams and the critical stakeholders scattered all over the nation.
Dr Bukar Hassan needs to also rejig the platforms that will enhance accountability and transparency so that the international community shall find the justification to scale up its support of Nigeria and the agency in the efforts they are set to achieve. In this way also, the wider grassroots citizens of our ever-increasing Follow The Money community shall find ample leverage to engage the agency and hold them to account.
By Hamzat Lawal (Activist and Founder/Chief Executive of Connected Development – CODE)