Make the Sahel richer and greener for nature and people

BirdLife International and the Nigerian Conservation Foundation (NCF, BirdLife’s partner in the country) held a workshop yesterday on strengthening the mainstreaming of biodiversity in the Great Green Wall (GMW) actions under the auspices of the Panafrican GGW Agency (APGMV), on the sidelines of the 8th Ordinary meeting of the Council of Ministers.

The workshop, held in the framework of the PAGGW-BirdLife International Partnership, enabled BirdLife partners in the region and the Great Green Wall National Agency (ANGGW) to exchange their experiences and strengthen synergies, for joint planning. , at the same time as establishing a roadmap for the development of the regional concept “Make the Sahel richer and greener for nature and people”.

The Sahel is a mostly semi-arid land of more than 3 million square kilometers that stretches across the shores of the African continent, on the southern edge of the Sahara Desert. About 80% of the region’s population is dependent on agriculture. But years of excessive agriculture and overgrazing, combined with climate change, have led to increased desertification, threatening the livelihoods of over 130 million people and the survival of wildlife.

To address this crisis, the Heads of State and Government of Burkina Faso, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sudan and Chad launched the Great Green Wall Initiative (IGGW), approved in 2007 by the African Union. as the great green wall of the Sahara and the Sahel initiative. This initiative, which stretches from Senegal in the west to Djibouti in the east, aims to halt desertification by restoring degraded land through a mosaic of diverse land uses, including sustainable agriculture and restoration of natural habitats, with the ambitious goal of creating 10 million green jobs and food security for more than 20 million people by 2030.

A report by the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) published in 2020 shows that around 20 million hectares of land have been restored so far. In Senegal, 11 million trees have been planted, while across Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Nigeria and Ethiopia, more than 540,000 hectares of land have been replanted, creating more than 280,000 jobs.

Since its inception, however, the GGW initiative has not paid much attention to biodiversity. Therefore, in 2019, a Memorandum of Understanding was signed between PAGGW and BirdLife International to support the strengthening of the integration and monitoring of biodiversity, habitats and ecosystem services within the initiative. GGWPA and BirdLife are committed to working together to support the implementation of the 2021-2030 Priority Investment Plan through habitat restoration, biodiversity monitoring along the GGW corridor, capacity building of national and local conservation organizations, as well as awareness-raising and advocacy.

“The Great Green Wall is a great development opportunity for local communities to integrate socio-economic and ecological conditions in a context of climate change and insecurity. All components are equal, but the biodiversity component is essential for this initiative and must be taken into account by all actors, government and because a hand can never wash itself! ”said Mr Ahmat Mahamat Haggar, Director General of the National GGW Agency in Chad, during the workshop.

“BirdLife and its partners have been involved in many conservation efforts in the region, such as Living on the edge in the Sahel. Based on what has been done, this cooperation will ensure the implementation of activities at the local level, the conservation of biodiversity and the improvement of society’s livelihood for sustainable conservation. said Geoffroy Citegetse, coordinator of BirdLife’s initiative along the East Atlantic Flyway.

In Nigeria, the NCF implemented a tree planting project as part of its green restoration strategy along the GGW corridor in five states in collaboration with the National GGW Agency to restore degraded lands, improve communities’ livelihoods and mainstream biodiversity through integrated community farms. In the Hadejia Nguru wetlands, the NCF built local communities’ capacity for sustainable livelihoods, including carpet weaving, beekeeping and improved fishing methods.

“Reforestation, reforestation, mass awareness of green energy and sustainable living are major conscious programs that individuals, businesses and public authorities must participate in to fight desertification and climate change, which can lead humanity to extinction and cause unexpected chaos, even pandemics. More resources need to be found and released to encourage non-governmental and civil society organizations that are committed to fighting issues at the local level, even though the challenge is global, “said Dr. Muhtari Aminu-Kano, Director General of the Nigerian Conservation Foundation, host for this workshop.

Within the framework of this partnership, APGMV, with the support of the BirdLife partnership, has developed the project entitled “Making the Sahel richer and greener for nature and people”. This proposed initiative aims to improve the conservation of biodiversity, ecosystem services and societal resilience for the benefit of nature, humans and the climate. This proposal is evolving rapidly, with an initial grant phase in Niamey in April last year and the workshop just concluded in Abuja, including all the Great Green Wall offices, partners and affiliates of BirdLife in the region, BirdLife support partners in Europe, international organizations and other NGOs working in the Sahel.

During the workshop, GGW’s national agencies welcomed initiatives to improve the mainstreaming of biodiversity in GGW and requested funding and support for the implementation of the project. In addition, BirdLife partners and national agencies identified areas for collaboration and agreed to continue collaborating in their respective countries, including joining forces to mobilize resources and build technical and financial capacity at the national and local levels. With the relevant material and information available, BirdLife partners and national agencies agreed to increase information sharing and use it for better communication on the GGW initiative.

“The Sahel is crucial to the survival of migratory birds. The BirdLife partnership has been active in the Sahel for decades. Through local initiatives, we have developed innovative and adapted mechanisms to promote bird conservation and biodiversity. We have the know-how to engage, strengthen and empower communities, monitor and improve biodiversity and landscape restoration, improve livelihoods and build capacity.Today’s workshop is a logical step towards translating our cooperation with the Pan-African GGW Agency at national level to achieve coherent and consistent impacts globally.This is the DNA itself in BirdLife, from the local to the global, “said Jean-Baptiste Deffontaines, Head of BirdLife International in West Africa.

“We must consider the Great Green Wall as a gateway to socio-economic and robust development. To do this, we must adopt an inclusive approach that takes into account the concepts of sustainable development, social equality, economic visibility and the environmental dimension. The Great Green Wall will be implemented by the communities for the communities ”declared Mr. Gora Diop, Director General of NGGW in Senegal.

The momentum around this initiative is at its peak, with many countries pledging to fund the Great Green Wall in 2021 and 2022 – at the One Planet Summit (with almost € 17 billion to the 11 countries to preserve biodiversity and achieve the UN’s sustainable development Objectives by 2025), COP 26 of the UN Convention on Climate Change and COP 15 of the UN Convention to Combat Desertification – with one key aspect: placing biodiversity at the heart of the GGW initiative.

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