„Goals are no good if people are poor”

Farmer Samba Chek from Ndiawara in the commune of Diocole Mbelbouc, Senegal, demonstrates that farmer-managed natural regeneration (FMNR) is an important technique within larger green wall initiatives. Photo by Kelvin Trotman/Regreening Africa

Over the past few decades, the Sahel — the region south of the Sahara desert and the Horn of Africa — has changed.

Droughts have become more severe and food insecurity has worsened, with millions of people in the region increasingly dependent on food aid. Lake Chad has shrunk by 90 percent in the past half century, and Ethiopia’s highlands are becoming increasingly arid.

These changes are caused by climate change, population pressure and sustained use of natural resources.

In response to the challenges of desertification Sahel, African Union launches Africa-led Great Green Wall (GGW) initiative – an ambitious plan to halt the southward advance of the Sahara desert in 2007.

The initiative initially focused on planting a 'wall’ of trees 8000 kilometers long and 15 kilometers wide around the perimeter of the continent from Senegal to Djibouti. Pan-African Agency for the Great Green Wall (PAGGW) was established in 2010, and formalized GGW agencies or focal points in 11 Sahel countries: Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Sudan, Chad, Nigeria, Niger, Mali, Burkina Faso, Mauritania and Senegal.

While the code of this goal was commendable, its initial failure to address the broader livelihoods component was subject to criticism. Despite massive tree planting activities in Africa, there is a lack of monitoring that the right trees are being planted in the right places, are useful to people, are environmentally friendly and sustainable.

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New knowledge for the Great Green Wall operation (K4GGWA) regional project was launched on 6 November 2023 to help key GGW stakeholders improve their knowledge management and sharing mechanisms, develop national GGW data platforms, foster dialogue at national and regional levels and strengthen institutions and improve the capacity of national and regional GGW agencies.

Participants in the Knowledge for Great Green Wall Action (K4GGWA) project at the African Union headquarters in Addis Ababa. Photo by Eyob Getahun/CIFOR-ICRAF

„We need to look at economically and socially feasible restoration,” says the Center for International Forestry Research and World Agroforestry (CIFOR-ICRAFAfter sharing CIFOR-ICRAF’s successes and key learnings, Peter Minang, Director for Africa, at the launch of the project Making Africa green again program. „Goals are no good if people are poor.”

In response to an assessment in 2020, GGW It has evolved from its initial focus on tree planting to a comprehensive rural development initiative aimed at transforming the lives of people in the Sahel by creating greener and more productive landscapes in 11 countries. Its main objectives are to restore 100 million hectares of degraded land, create 10 million jobs in rural areas and sequester 250 million tonnes of carbon by 2030.

In 2021, when A Planetary SummitWorld leaders responded to the renewed vision for GGW with significant commitments, and Great Green Wall Accelerator PAGGW was initiated to support PAGGW through the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) Global Mechanism. The accelerator aims to facilitate collaboration between donors and stakeholders and enable all actors to better coordinate, monitor and measure the impact of their actions.

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At the launch, Thomas Huyghebaert, Head of Cooperation at the EU Delegation to the AU Commission, said K4GGWA should significantly increase the GGW knowledge base, support the mobilization of wider resources from local, regional and international sources, and create synergies and increase efficiency. „We must not be complacent,” he said. „We need to win the hearts and minds of communities.”

Kebede Yimam, Director General of Ethiopian Forestry Development (EFD), outlined the steps taken to realize its ambitious plan to restore more than 22 million hectares of degraded forest lands by the end of 2030. Climate Resilient Green Economy StrategyThe Green Legacy InitiativeAnd this National Dryland Restoration Strategy.

„We have a lot of limitations and gaps,” Kebede said.These are mainly related to coordination, capacity and knowledge gaps to effectively plan, implement and monitor the interventions and activities of the GGW initiative in order to bring long-term solution and impact. We believe this new initiative will help fill these gaps and guide us collectively towards our goals.

During the week of meetings, many participants visited the Dima Tree Seed Center and learned about tree seed procurement, storage and distribution and the establishment of breeding seed gardens. Photos by Abraham Abou/CIFOR-ICRAF


K4GGWA is funded by the European Union (EU) and implemented by CIFOR-ICRAF and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). It seeks to enable sustainable land management for improved livelihoods and accelerate progress towards GGW objectives. The project will primarily focus on the 11 countries that are members of the GGW’s Pan-African Agency. Where possible and appropriate, EU support will provide support to an additional seven countries implementing GGW-related activities: Cameroon, Ghana, Benin, Cape Verde, Gambia, South Sudan and Somalia.

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