The implementation of the Pan African flagship programme, the Great Green Wall Initiative (GGWSSI) has received a significant financing boost at the ongoing UN Conference of the Parties (COP) on Climate Change taking place in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt.
The Great Green Wall Initiative is an African Union-led initiative that aims to grow an 8000km “green wall” of vegetation across the entire width of the Continent to transform the lives of millions living on the frontlines of climate change.
“We are talking about trying to restore almost 800 million hectares of land in the Sahel region,” said Elvis Tangem, Coordinator for the Great Green Wall Initiative (GGWSSI) at the African Union Commission.
“That is more than twice the size of India. The last report (of the GGWSSI) shows that about 18% of the initial target of about 100 million hectares by 2030 had been done. Here we mean activities like forestry, agroforestry, land management, climate-smart agriculture, water management, renewable energy, and pastoral livestock, so the Great Green Wall became an integrated mosaic of various sustainable land management and restoration initiatives.”
He told Timescape Magazine that the benefits span a broad range of areas, including reducing poverty in a region with the highest levels of poverty on the planet.
“If we restore 100 million hectares of land that we targeted by 2030, one, we are going to create 10 million decent jobs. Two, we are going to sequester 250 million tons of carbon from land degradation neutrality and avoided degradation and deforestation. And then we are going to create wealth of over 3-5 billion USD. So, if you extrapolate to Agenda 2063 of the African Union, you will realize that if we can restore 900 million hectares of land including the Southern African region, we will create more than 100 million jobs,” he said.
He said this will be done not only by planting trees but also by giving people alternatives to reduce their dependence on forests. These include adding value to non-timber forest products, resorting to biofuels as well as developing fuel-efficient wood stoves.
Tangem told Timescape Magazine that at the COP27 in Sharm El Sheikh, not only was enthusiasm from member states of the African Union towards the Great Green Wall building momentum, but financial partners were also committing resources to the implementation of the wall.
“The European Union announced an additional 700 million euros to support our member states to implement the Great Green Wall. Southbridge Fund has announced two Billion with 50 million as grants and the rest as loans to our member states to enhance the implementation of the Great Green Wall,” he said.
The President of the African Development Bank, Akinwumi Adesina said his institution was committing significant resources to the implementation of the Great Green Wall.
“We promised 6.5 billion dollars. We are delivering on 7.4 billion dollars-13% above what we promised, for building resilience for the Lake Chad Basin-for Agricultural assistance resilience, nutritional resilience, and energy transformation.”
He said further that the AfDB is funding what he called a Desert to Power initiative-a $20 billion investment aimed at installing 10,000MW of solar across 11 countries in the Sahel, which will provide light to some 250 million people.
“It will become the largest solar project in the world. It’s already started. It started in Chad, it’s started in Burkina Faso and it’s already starting in Mali,” he said.
Besides the surge in funding, there is also increased political will, with many countries signalling interest in the Great Green Wall.
“We are exceeding expectations because billions and billions are coming in. At the policy level, the buy-in is great, all these member states are running to get in, which means it is working,” Tangem told Timescape Magazine.
He said 150 projects worth $6 billion were being implemented across the Sahel -from pastoralism to the promotion of potable and irrigation water to restoration through agro-forestry as well as reforestation programs.
“There is a lot of enthusiasm in the Great Green Wall because it’s one of the key adaptation programs on the continent,” Tangem said.
He said the President of Tanzania was already requesting a Great Green Wall for the Southern Africa-a region that in recent years has known deadly cyclones and other natural hazards.
“The President of Somalia is also requesting to be on board. Ghana too is interested,” he said.
“What we need now is for member states to develop their capacity to absorb these funds and to develop bankable projects that can absorb the kinds of funds that are coming in.”
He said the Great Green Wall model was already gaining traction across the globe. It’s already been adopted in Mexico, and the Saudi Arabia Green Initiative is modelled on it, an indication that it stands as one of the greatest success stories in Africa.
“Africa must unlock its potential, we must not be known as the poverty museum of the world,” Tangem concluded.
This story was produced as part of the 2022 Climate Change Media Partnership, a journalism fellowship organized by Internews’ Earth Journalism Network and the Stanley Center for Peace and Security.