Teams from the 12 nations of the Sahel and West Africa Programme in Support of the Great Green Wall Initiative (SAWAP) are utilising the opportunity of the project’s 4th Conference holding in the Ghanaian capital city of Accra to present the success stories of their projects, as well as the lessons learnt from their experiences.
The international forum, which began on Monday, May 8, 2017 and will be rounded up on Wednesday, May 10, will, on the basis of the project’s achievements, identify future actions and new support needs for SAWAP national projects.
SAWAP is part of the Building Resilience through Innovation, Communications and Knowledge Services (BRICKS), a six-year World Bank-funded regional knowledge and monitoring platform being implemented by the Permanent Interstate Committee for Drought Control in the Sahel (CILSS), the Sahara and Sahel Observatory (OSS) and the West and Central Africa Office of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
In an opening speech delivered during the opening session on Monday, Prof. Frimpong Boateng, Minister for Environment of Ghana, lauded the SAWAP/BRICKS initiative, even as he expressed gratitude to the Global Environment Facility (GEF) through the World Bank for supporting the implementation of the Ghana Sustainable Land and Water Management Project (SLWMP), which aims to support farmers in the Northern Savannah Zone to adopt sustainable land management practices to help reverse land degradation and desertification in northern Ghana.
“The process of land degradation in Ghana and Africa is increasingly being recognised as a key development issue because of its impact on the productive capacity of the land. In Ghana, rural households are the most affected by land degradation because of their heavy dependence on agriculture and other natural resources dependent activities as sources of their livelihoods,” he said.
According to him, climate change is expected to exacerbate land degradation pressures, reducing capacity to buffer further climate change impacts. The minister underlined Ghana’s commitment to addressing the issue of land degradation, in the light of the economic and social significance of land management, as it contributes to economic growth, biodiversity, sustainable agriculture, food security and women empowerment.
Henry G.R. Kerali, World Bank Country Director for Ghana, in a welcome speech, expressed concern over the steadily deteriorating state of soil, water, vegetation and other natural resource assets of peoples living in Africa’s drylands as a result of unsustainable management, and expanding human settlement that is generating increased demand for food, fodder, fuelwood, land and water.
While lamenting that land degradation and natural resource depletion are increasingly leading to migration and coflicts over natural resources, Kerali emphasised that these challenges transcend institutional and geographic boundaries, and require collaborative vision and action.
“Addressing natural resource degradation and desertification requires multi-sectoral collaboration at the landscape level,” he declared, even as he expressed the World Bank’s happiness “to see emerging success, and the potential for scale-up and replication”.
Jean-Marc Sinassamy, Representative of the Global Environment Facility (GEF), stated that, by addressing desertification and land degradation, the SAWAP/BRICKS programme demonstrates the importance of ecosystem services provided by lands, soils, water, and vegetation. Protecting and restoring these natural services have economic and social consequences, he added.
His words: “The SAWAP is a good illustration of the nexus between land productivity, food security, and poverty eradication. Some of the results from this project, for instance in Ghana, have already been scaled up in the GEF6 Integrated Approach Pilot for food security. And, these results could not be timelier.
“The GEF is entering into the replenishment discussions and Naoko Ishii, the Chair and CEO of the GEF, is proposing innovative ways to move forward with a set of impact programmes, including on food systems, on landscape restoration, on sustainable drylands, on other subjects well reflecting the interdependence between land degradation, biodiversity, climate change and resilience issues. The issues we all working on are rising to the top of the agenda.
“It is a very good time to discuss and show the results of the SAWAP, not only to the participating countries, but to the whole continent, to the donors, and all our partners. The next replenishment meeting will take place in Ethiopia in October.”
Elvis Paul Nfor Tangem, Coordinator, Great Green Wall for the Sahara and Sahel Initiative (GGWSSI), Africa Union Commission (AUC), said that, few years from the initial implementation of the programme, the benefits of the GGWSSI are “very clear today”.
He stressed: “Through various projects and multiple partners, we can now proudly show concrete results from the implementation of the initiative in over 15 member states on the continent and beyond. Thousands of hectares of degraded and barren lands have been restored and millions of trees planted, livelihoods have been improved and thousands of jobs created in communities that are attributed to the initiative.”
According to him, the GGWSSI have become a political, technical, exchange and connecting platform, connecting the capacities of countries, organisations, initiatives and expertise far beyond the continent of Africa.
“The initiative has made tremendous political and diplomatic progress, mainstreaming land degradation, drought and desertification and the contribution of policy makers, leading to the harmonisation and close relationship between the policy makers and all other stakeholders and actors in the sector, in Africa and even globally. We have initiatives that were implemented in the image of the GGWSSI in the Caribbean and Pacific regions.”
Speaking on the conference and the prospects of the projects, he submitted:
“Now is the time to reflect on what has been achieved so far within the SAWAP/BRICKS projects and the initiative in general. The SAWAP/BRICKs project remains the largest in size, time frame and amount of funding, the successes is determinant to the future funding of the initiative as it will set an ethos for large scale financing The project is laying the groundwork for the effective development and future large scale financing of the initiative.
“In relation to funding, there is a need for innovation and look more at leveraging; pull domestic and diaspora fund and other sources. The AUC sees a lot of opportunities at the level of the continent especially with the increasing confident private sector and philanthropy (Moo Ibrahim, Tony Elumelu and Aliko Dangote).
“We have to change our approach from requesting governments to act to showing why they should (Cost Benefit Analyses). Show measures to de risks investments, to reduce uncertainty, manage and mitigate risks to promote Private investment. We should also expand to other projects like the renewables.
“We should also embrace innovative funding approaches, like green ATM cards, green bonds, crowd funding, and leveraging pension funds for investment. Lets innovate, the capital market has unlimited possibilities spanning regional and national networks. Lets, work with the water investors, those in dams, hydroelectric, and tell them that protecting watershed is part of the investment.”