Boosting land restoration and renewable energy along Africa’s Great Green Wall

On October 25, 2017, leading experts from Africa and beyond arrived in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire to discuss how to shore up funding for the Great Green Wall initiative, Africa’s major rural restorative development strategy. The goal is help more people in Africa’s drylands cope with the consequences of climate change and desertification.

Some see it as the eighth world wonder, and surely its bold ambition to green huge swaths of dryland around the Sahara is no less than epic – but now the Great Green Wall for the Sahara and the Sahel initiative is now facing a reality check.

Satellite image of the Sahara Desert via NASA.

Created ten years ago, the initiative has rallied an impressive alliance of African nations, international organizations, research institutes, civil society and an increasing number of rural communities, behind its inspiring vision of providing a lifeline for the continent’s most vulnerable people.

Yet to bring long term solutions so those communities can thrive once more—while responding to challenges such as climate change and drought, hunger and malnutrition—the Great Green Wall must do more to roll out a great mosaic of productive landscapes across North Africa, the Sahel and the Horn of Africa.

The Pan-African Agency of the Great Green Wall (PAGGW) and the African Union Commission (AUC) supported by key development partners, the African Development Bank Group (AfDB) and the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), are meeting with Great Green Wall country representatives and other technical and financial partners in Abidjan this week to discuss the way forward.

Early results in land restoration are encouraging. They show that land degradation is not yet irreversible. Under the Action Against Desertification project, for example, an estimated twelve thousand hectares of degraded land have been planted between 2015 and 2017 to start their restoration.

African drought. Photo credit: Adobe Stock

Action Against Desertification, an initiative of the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States (ACP) implemented by FAO and partners with funding from the European Union, puts local communities centre stage by focussing on their needs for useful native plant species and water resource conservation and management. This is key for successful restoration and to transform degraded lands into productive and economically viable areas.

Yet, these achievements pale in comparison with the scale of action that is really needed. According to the Global Drylands Assessment, conducted by FAO and partners in 2015-2016, around 10 million hectares will need to be restored each year to halt and reverse land degradation along the Great Green Wall by 2030.

Expand Great Green Wall’s contribution to climate change adaptation and mitigation


The AUC, AfDB, the PAGGW and FAO are working together on a large-scale programme to help the Great Green Wall countries to achieve the targets set out in their Nationally Determined Contributions to the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change.

In Abidjan, they aim to work out a collaborative programme that provides an umbrella framework for a pipeline of projects that contribute to a common Great Green Wall vision. Partners will discuss their respective roles and will plan project submissions to available sources of climate finance, including the Green Climate Fund.

The programme integrates forest and land use sectors, renewable energy solutions, large scale restoration of agrosilvopastoral landscapes, as well as smallholder agricultural value chain improvements in support of climate change adaptation and mitigation. Efforts will be supported by a comprehensive monitoring and reporting system, as well as capacity development to sustain an enabling environment.

At the same time, partners are preparing a round table for scaling up investments for the Great Green Wall during the upcoming PAGGW’s Heads of State Summit.

Unless otherwise credited, all photos courtesy of United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD).

See FAO Action Against Desertification website.

See UNCCD report on the Great Green Wall (PDF).

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