African leaders expressed dismay at UN talks held in Abidjan regarding funding barriers. They believe that the Sahel’s climate impacts are not being addressed adequately by UN funds.
The Great Green Wall is the UN’s one big idea for combatting desertification: an 8,000 kilometre stretch of vegetation across the Sahel region of Africa. The Great Green Wall has not been operational for 15 years.
The programme was supposed to be a solution for the conflict and poverty that plague semi-arid regions. However, it has been hampered by financial barriers and lack of coordination between government agencies.
These challenges dominated discussions at the two-week summit of UN desertification in Abidjan, Ivory Coast. It ends Friday.
“It’s not only planting trees, it’s planting hope for millions of young people,” explained Ibrahim Thiaw, executive secretary of the UN Convention on Combatting Desertification (UNCCD).
“Hope is not yet turning into action at the scale or pace you aspire to,” Thiaw told African leaders during the Cop15 talks in Abidjan, Ivory Coast. “Because collectively, we are struggling to turn those pledges into projects and investments.
“Understandably, this is leading to frustrations,” he said.
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A recent report by UNCCD found that 40% of the planet’s land is degraded – directly affecting half of humanity.
As the Sahara’s harsh conditions continue to worsen, vulnerable populations in the Sahel face daily challenges. During the meeting’s opening ceremony, Niger’s president Mohamed Bazoum told heads of state of a vicious cycle of desertification, poverty and violence because of competition over resources.
“The principle reasons for the tragic worsening of these scourging remains ongoing desertification and the degradation of arable land,” he said.
The Great Green Wall has been hailed as “an inspiring model” to transform the lives of million of people by creating jobs in sustainable land management and agriculture and ecosystem restoration. Plans are in place to replicate it throughout southern Africa.
A 2020 progress report showed that only 4% of the 100 million hectares of land restoration target had been met.
It is a key part of a global pledge to restore one million hectares of land that has been damaged by climate change by 2030. Abidjan negotiators are expected to reach an agreement to improve drought preparedness, protect land from climate impacts, strengthen land rights, and address the increasing risks of sand storms and dust storms.
Some expressed disillusionment with the process and skepticism about another climate meeting for Africa.
These summits “have created big hopes for Africa” in the past, Moussa Faki Mahamat, of Chad, president of the African Union Commission, told the meeting’s opening ceremony.
“But in truth, all these strategies and conferences haven’t achieve the expected results and the promises that underpinned them have not been met.”
Trust may have been further shaken when it emerged that former Ivory Coast minister for waters and forests Alain Richard Donwahi was appointed to preside over the meeting despite being embroiled in a Timber Trafficking case.
Donwahi denies the allegations and an investigation is ongoing.
Despite renewed political attention and good intentions, the Great Green Wall is not delivering the development and prosperity that was promised for the Sahel.
“A few years after the start of its implementation phase, we are confronted, it has to be said, to a number of obstacles,” Sakhoudia Thiam, of the Pan-African Agency of the Great Green Wall told an event on Wednesday.
The severity of climate change is increasing at a rate that is outpacing efforts to mitigate them.
“Today, we are witnessing increasingly worrying phenomena and a changing climate which is impacting the well being of local population,” said Thiam.
With temperatures rising 1.5x faster in the Sahel than global averages and decreasing rainfall, it is difficult to restore vegetation. Young plants must be protected against hungry livestock.
Thiam stated that nearly half the land best suited to regeneration is found in conflict zones.
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Funding isn’t getting through. International donors pledged $19bn last year to support the African-led initiative after the One Planet Summit was held in France.
More than a year on, the money still hasn’t been disbursed. President Emmanuel Macron wasn’t there to explain why. Leaders from the developed world were not present.
Niger’s Bazoum and Nigerian president Muhammadu Buhari urged donors to release the funds to support investments for smallholder farmers and capacity building.
Thiaw, of the UNCCD, described the current system for accessing the pledged finance as “complex and cumbersome at best”.
Climate Home asked Chris Magero to speak as senior programme officer for forest and grassland for the International Union for the Conservation of Nature. He said that African nations should also invest in the Great Green Wall vision.
“Rangelands have never been prioritised. They have long been seen as areas of wasteland and have not been targeted as areas of restoration,” he said – something IUCN and its partners are working to “demystify”.
And it’s not just finance that is missing. Thiam stated that the pan-African agency that is responsible for delivering this project is short of staff.
“With the best will in the world, neither the national agency of the GGW, as currently set up, nor a single line ministry can make all the necessary wheels turn,” said Thiaw.
He said that the government should raise the issue and provide oversight to the president.
Source: Climate Change News