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GEF Council approves pathbreaking West Africa/Sahel integrated land use program advocated by African Union


New effort commits funds toward $3 billion investment to protect key ecosystems in Lake Chad, Congo Basin and “Great Green Wall” bordering Sahara


Washington, May 26, 2011—The Councils of the Global Environment Facility (GEF) trust fund and the Least Developed Country Fund / Special Climate Change Fund today approved a program expected to generate up to $3 billion in targeted investments to address priorities set by 12 African countries in West Africa and the Sahel. Officials said the new framework will help countries in the region better shield productive land from the ravages of the desert and to boost food security in the region.

Under the action taken today the GEF commits $108 million directly into a project administered by the World Bank Group which will include an additional $1.8 billion in investment in baseline investments for agriculture, nature resource management, and climate change risk assessment for countries that are part of West Africa and Sahel. Further commitments expected by the African Development Bank, the International Fund for Agricultural Development along with other international donors for related programming are expected to draw close to $3 billion before year’s end.

The 12 nations represented here all recognize some simple but powerful truths: having farmable land means engaging in good land management practices to fight desertification; making water available to support agriculture keeps rural economies strong; and supporting local livelihoods helps people not simply survive, but thrive,” said Monique Barbut, CEO and Chairperson of the GEF. "The action taken by the councils today is a pivotal step forward in helping these countries move forward on these critical priorities."

Barbut noted that the Councils’ decision today represents one of the three priorities for Africa as described by Meles Zenawi, Prime Minister of Ethiopia during his speech in Cancun on behalf of the African Union at last year’s international negotiations on climate change. Along with the Sahel program, African leaders are looking to support expanded sustainable development programs in Lake Chad and the Congo Basin. The GEF already has a presence in the Congo and is expected to consider investment in Lake Chad later this year.

For the newly approved West Africa/Sahel program the project addresses major challenges common across the region related to land degradation. This includes economic issues such as food security as well as environmental concerns such as climate change mitigation and adaptation in a framework designed to support sustainable development across the 12 twelve country area. (Countries include the nine African countries associated with the Great Green Wall Initiative -Burkina Faso, Chad, Ethiopia, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal and Sudan-, as well as Benin, Togo and Ghana which also have important savannah and forest systems linked to the Sahel/Sahara region).

We are all concerned by land degradation in our countries. We commend the GEF Council for helping us to develop a comprehensive program that will be adapted to each situation on the ground,” said Tewolde Gebreyesus, GEF Focal Point for Ethiopia and Council Member representing the Eastern Africa Constituency.

The GEF is the world’s largest funder of global environmental projects and will be making the investment through various financing windows including its Least Developed Countries Fund and the Special Climate Change Fund for adaptation , and other resources within the GEF that encourage sustainable development focal areas on biological diversity, climate change mitigation, land degradation and sustainable forest management.