By Bennett Oghifo
Close to 20 million hectares of land have already been restored, as part of the Great Green Wall (GGW) initiative, according to the implementation report released recently at a virtual meeting of environment ministers from Nigeria, Senegal, Mauritania, Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger, Chad, Sudan, Eritrea, Ethiopia and Djibouti together with regional partners, international organisations and development agencies.
The GGW was launched in 2007 under the leadership of the African Union Commission and Pan-African Agency of the GGW, and with 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 15 km 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.
This first comprehensive status report, ‘The Great Green Wall: Implementation Status and Way Ahead to 2030’ states that over 350,000 jobs were created and around USD90 million in revenues was generated from 2007 to 2018 through the GGW activities. 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 MtCO2 by 2030, roughly 30 per cent of the envisioned target for the GGW.
The report 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 USD4.3 billion. The initiative also aims to create 10 million jobs by that date.
In her opening remarks, the UN Deputy Secretary-General Ms. Amina Mohammed said, “The Great Green Wall can – and will – change the lives of millions of our people. More jobs, better health, greater stability; more resilient and cohesive communities and stronger inclusive economic growth. “As we survey the wreckage of COVID-19, and make our plans to rebuild through robust stimulus packages, it would be a missed opportunity not to see investing in the Great Green Wall as an integral component of an inclusive sustainable economic response and recovery.”
The UNCCD Executive Secretary, Mr. 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.”
At the closing of the ministerial meeting, a declaration on The Great Green Wall was adopted to highlight the potential of the GGW as one of the levers for achieving the post-COVID economic recovery, poverty reduction, ecosystems restoration, climate change adaptation and mitigation, women empowerment, fight against irregular economic migration and jobs creation. The declaration emphasises the need for sustained and multifaceted support, as well as active participation of all partners to achieve the GGW goals.