Close to 18mn hectares restored to create green wall in Africa

New Delhi, Sep 8 (IANS) Close to 18 million hectares of land have already been restored in Africa as part of the Great Green Wall (GGW) initiative, says the first comprehensive assessment status report.

The report, ‘The Great Green Wall: Implementation Status and Way Ahead to 2030’, states that over 350,000 jobs were created and around $90 million in revenues was generated from 2007 to 2018 through the GGW activities across Africa from Senegal to Djibouti.

Over 220,000 people received training on sustainable production of agro-pastoral and non-timber products to support the shift to more responsible consumption and production. The restored area will sequester over 300 MtCO2e (million metric tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalents) by 2030, roughly 30 per cent of the envisioned target for the GGW.

The report, released on Monday at a virtual meeting of the Environmental Ministers from Senegal, Mauritania, Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger, Nigeria, Chad, Sudan, Eritrea, Ethiopia and Djibouti with international organisations and development agencies, also indicates that to reach the target restoration of 100 million hectares of land by 2030, the GGW countries need to restore 8.2 million hectares of land every year at an annual financial investment of $4.3 billion.

The initiative also aims to create 10 million jobs by that date.

The GGW was formed in 2007 under the leadership of the African Union Commission and Pan-African Agency of the GGW, and with the financial support from the government of Ireland.

The initiative unites African countries and international partners to transform the lives of millions of people by growing an 8,000-km long and 15km wide mosaic of trees, grasslands, vegetation and plants along the southern tip of the Saharan desert.

Once complete, the GGW will be the largest living structure on the planet, three times the size of the Great Barrier Reef.

United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) Executive Secretary Ibrahim Thiaw said, “The GGW is yielding immediate benefits for the local communities and long-term ecosystem benefits at the international level.

“It shows that when countries dare to dream, work together and make the right choices, we can prosper and live in harmony with nature. And where innovative ideas emerge, positive, dramatic change that benefits both the local and international communities will happen.”

According to the report, four per cent of the intervention zone demarcated specifically under the GGW was restored. The additional 16 per cent comes from regions restored in other locations in these countries.

The GGW initiative was conceived in response to widespread land degradation and extreme poverty linked to recurrent and severe droughts in Sahel.

Sahel is located on the southern edge of the Sahara Desert, stretching from the Atlantic Coast of West Africa to the Red Sea in the East.

The key challenges the countries faced include financing, raising awareness about the initiative globally, scaling up the projects, coordinating fundraising and improving the governance, institutions and monitoring mechanisms.

The GGW was created in 2005 in Ouagadougou in Burkina Faso during the Cen-Sad Summit. The African Union endorsed it in 2007.