During a high-level event on the Great Green Wall initiative, leaders of African countries called for increased investment in combatting desertification and land degradation to improve the lives of the people of Africa’s drylands.
“The Food and Agricultural Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) is committed to scaling up support to the Great Green Wall initiative,” said José Graziano Da Silva, Director-General of FAO. “It offers hope for prosperity and well-being to the local communities at the heart of our efforts.”
Brah Mahamat, Minister for Environment, Water & Fisheries from Chad, speaking on behalf of the African Union that leads the initiative, emphasised the epic ambitions of Africa’s flagship rural development programme. “The Great Green Wall is one of the most audacious efforts in human history,” he said.
Yet the challenges of climate change and land degradation are equally formidable, ministers and senior representatives from Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Mauritania, Nigeria, Senegal and Sudan noted. Great Green Wall countries are faced with conflict, migration, poverty and hunger.
“There is light at the end of the tunnel,” said Amina Mohammed, Nigerian Minister of Environment, who lauded the merits of the initiative. “In spite of all odds, it is an initiative of solidarity, it is about a family of countries across the Sahel and the Sahara that are taking collective responsibility.”
To bolster its support to the initiative, FAO builds on recommendations of the recent International Great Green Wall Conference in Dakar and a roadmap for the upcoming Climate Change Conference in Marrakech, said René Castro, FAO’s Assistant Director-General for Forestry.
But the task ahead is daunting, he warned. To rehabilitate 10 per cent of the total area around the Sahara Desert affected by desertification, estimated at 600 million hectares, would require an investment of about $143 billion.
“We need to think big and see big,” said FAO’s Deputy Director-General Maria Helena Semedo in her closing remarks. “It’s time to scale-up.”