By WANJOHI KABUKURU and SAM MEDNICK, Associated Press
OUAGADOUGOU, Burkina Faso (AP) — A series of complex challenges, including a lack of funding and political will as well as growing insecurity linked to extremist groups al-Qaida and Islamic State in Burkina Faso, are hampering progress in the Great Green Wall of Africa, according to experts involved in the initiative.
There have been some modest gains for the project, which plans to build an 8,000 kilometer (4,970 mile) long forest across 11 countries across the width of Africa to hold back the ever-growing Sahara Desert and push back the impacts of climate change, but many involved in the plan are calling for renewed momentum to tackle both insecurity and environmental decline.
Only 4 million hectares (9.9 million acres) of land have been forested since work on the green wall began 15 years ago, barely 4% of the program’s ultimate goal.
Adama Doulkom, coordinator of the Great Green Wall Initiative for the Sahara and the Sahel in Burkina Faso, said political instability and security concerns are severely hampering progress in nearly 4,000 villages across the country.
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“Terrorist attacks in the affected regions have forced populations to disperse. This limits the movement of people, which makes it difficult for us to directly follow actions on the ground, which could lead to difficulties in creating improvements in certain areas,” said Doulkom.
Over the past three years, the Burkinabe Sahel, northern and eastern regions have become inaccessible. Much of the Sahel region designated for the Green Wall is plagued by security concerns, with efforts in Sudan, Ethiopia, Mali, Chad, Niger and Nigeria all impacted.
The UN desertification agency said the plan had several additional challenges to overcome, such as lukewarm high-level political support, weak organizational structures, insufficient coordination and funding, and lack of mainstreaming. insufficient national environmental priorities.
The Great Green Wall featured prominently at the UN agency’s two-week summit in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, which ended on Friday. Desertification, which has serious repercussions on food production and security, is exacerbated by climate change and agricultural activity.
First proposed in 2005, the program aims to plant forest from Senegal on the Atlantic Ocean in the west to Eritrea, Ethiopia and Djibouti in the east. The initiative is hoped to create millions of green jobs in rural Africa, reduce levels of climate-related migration in the region and capture hundreds of millions of tonnes of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Several countries struggled to meet project requirements, with Mali, Nigeria, Djibouti and Mauritania in particular lagging behind.
The UN desertification agency says up to 45% of Africa’s land is affected by desertification, making it more vulnerable than any other continent. The director of the agency, Ibrahim Thiaw, believes that this can have multiple negative effects on the surrounding communities, including security problems.
A report released Sunday by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute also noted the link between environmental degradation and conflict. “In the Sahel, social tensions combined with inadequate governance and environmental decline have produced a greater security risk,” he 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 a no-regrets option because any effort to restore soil health, replenish natural capital, and restore land health will bring benefits that far outweigh the costs.”
“What we are asking for now is action to accelerate the implementation of such a program to ensure that farmers, herders, local communities and women are all on board,” he said. -he adds.
Despite a multitude of setbacks, the actors of the project remain optimistic. Great Green Wall coordinator Elvis Tangem told The Associated Press that while the conflict has slowed the progress of the project, it has also opened up new opportunities.
“It started out as an environmental project, but the dynamics of the region pushed us to look beyond the ecological aspects of the project and embrace direct community concerns such as conflict resolution, peacebuilding, development youth, women’s empowerment and rural development, especially among pastoralists and farming communities,” he said.
Progress has been made in recent years in the east of the continent, according to the program coordination office in Addis Ababa.
Eritrea, Ethiopia and Sudan have all stepped up their efforts, with Ethiopia producing 5.5 billion seedlings, leading to thousands of hectares of restored land as well as a slight increase in creation jobs. Efforts in Eritrea and Sudan have also resulted in nearly 140,000 hectares (346,000 acres) of reforestation.
Niger is also hailed for its considerable progress.
“In terms of measurable restoration steps on the ground, it can be said that Niger is far ahead of most countries with significant citizen awareness and reforestation activities at all levels,” said Tabi Joda, Ambassador of the Great Green Wall. “More and more communities are embracing the initiative and taking the lead with 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.
Between 36 and 43 billion dollars are needed to achieve the green wall by 2030, according to estimates by the World Resources Institute. The African Development Bank pledged around $6.5 billion for the wall by 2025 at the UN climate conference in November last year following a French-led effort in early 2021 which has committed $14.5 billion to the project, which is significantly lower than the WRI estimate.
The UN desertification agency says the current rate of land restoration needs to be accelerated to an average of 8.2 million hectares (20 million acres) per year if the project is to reach its goal. self-imposed goal of 100 million hectares (247 million acres) restored by 2030.
“Investments must be intentional to provide opportunities that create the right dose of green jobs needed by the critical mass of young people and communities vulnerable to irregular migration and violence due to competition for scarce resources caused by the land degradation,” said Tabi Joda.
Wanjohi Kabukuru reported from Mombasa, Kenya.
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