OUAGADOUGOU – A complex set of challenges, including a lack of funding and political will, as well as rising insecurity related to extremist groups al-Qaeda and the Islamic State in Burkina Faso, are hampering progress in Africa Big green wallaccording to the experts involved in the initiative.
There have been some modest wins for the project, which plans to build an 8,000-kilometer (4,970-mile) forest across 11 nations across the breadth of Africa to hold back the ever-expanding Sahara Desert and stave off the effects of climate change, but many who involved in the plan are calling for new impetus to combat both insecurity and environmental degradation.
Since work on the Green Wall began 15 years ago, only 4 million hectares (9.9 million acres) of land have been reforested – just 4% of the program’s ultimate goal.
Adama Doulkom, the coordinator of the Great Green Wall for the Sahara and the Sahel Initiative in Burkina Faso, said political instability and security issues are significantly blocking progress in nearly 4,000 villages across the country.
“Terrorist attacks in the affected regions have forced the population to disperse. This limits people’s freedom of movement, making it difficult for us to directly monitor field actions, which could lead to difficulties in creating improvements in specific areas,” Doulkom said.
In the past three years, Burkinabe’s Sahel, North and East regions have become inaccessible. Much of the Sahel zone earmarked for the Green Wall is fraught with security issues, affecting efforts in Sudan, Ethiopia, Mali, Chad, Niger and Nigeria.
The United Nations Desertification Agency said the plan had several additional challenges to address, such as: These include lukewarm high-level political support, weak organizational structures, inadequate coordination and funding, and insufficient mainstreaming of national environmental priorities.
The Great Green Wall was the focus of the UN agency’s two-week summit in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, which ended on Friday. desertificationwhich has severe impacts on food production and security is being exacerbated by climate change and agricultural activity.
First proposed in 2005, the program aims to plant a forest from Senegal on the Atlantic Ocean in the west to Eritrea, Ethiopia and Djibouti in the east. It is hoped the initiative will create millions of green jobs in rural Africa, reduce the level of climate-driven migration in the region and sequester hundreds of millions of tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Several countries are struggling to keep up with the project’s requirements, notably Mali, Nigeria, Djibouti and Mauritania are lagging behind.
The UN Desertification Agency says up to 45% of Africa’s country is affected by desertification, making it more vulnerable than any other continent. Agency director Ibrahim Thiaw believes this can have several negative impacts on surrounding communities, including security concerns.
A report released Sunday by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute also points to the link between environmental degradation and conflict. “In the Sahel, social tensions combined with poor governance and environmental degradation create a greater security risk,” it said.
“By restoring land, you reduce conflict and irregular migration. There is a link between land restoration and irregular migration,” said Ibrahim Thiaw. “Land restoration is an option not to be regretted, as every effort to restore soil health, replenish natural capital and restore land health brings benefits that far outweigh the costs.”
“What we are asking for now is action to accelerate the implementation of such a program to ensure farmers, herders, local communities and women are involved,” he added.
Despite many setbacks, those involved in the project remain optimistic. Great Green Wall coordinator Elvis Tangem told the Associated Press that while conflict has slowed the project’s progress, it has also opened up new opportunities.
“It started as an environmental project, but the dynamism of the region has led us to look beyond the environmental aspects of the project to address direct community concerns such as conflict resolution, peacebuilding, youth development, women’s empowerment and rural development, particularly among ranchers and farming communities,” he said.
According to the Addis Ababa program coordination office, some progress has been made in the east of the continent in recent years.
Eritrea, Ethiopia and Sudan have all stepped up their efforts, with Ethiopia producing 5.5 billion seedlings, resulting in thousands of hectares of land being restored as well as a surge in job creation. Efforts in Eritrea and Sudan have also resulted in the reforestation of nearly 140,000 hectares (346,000 acres).
Niger is also celebrated for its remarkable progress.
“In terms of measurable recovery milestones on the ground, Niger is far ahead of most countries with significant civic awareness and contributions to reforestation activities at all levels,” said Tabi Joda, Great Green Wall Ambassador. “More and more communities are taking the initiative and taking the lead through their own community-led solutions.”
Joda, who leads youth mobilization for the project, noted that the program has had strong government support in Senegal and Nigeria.
The World Resources Institute estimates that between 36 and 43 billion dollars will be needed by 2030 to build the Green Wall. The African Development Bank pledged about $6.5 billion for the wall by 2025 during last November’s UN climate conference, after France committed $14.5 billion to the project in early 2021, well under the WRI’s estimate.
The UN Desert Agency says the current pace of land restoration will need to increase to an average of 8.2 million hectares (20 million acres) per year if the project is to restore its self-imposed goal of 100 million hectares (247 million acres) by 2030 .
“Investments must be consciously focused on creating opportunities that create the right dose of green jobs needed by the critical mass of youth and communities vulnerable to irregular employment due to competition for scarce resources caused by land degradation migration and violence,” said Tabi Joda.
Wanjohi Kabukuru reported from Mombasa, Kenya.
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