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The Sahel and West Africa Program to Support the Great Green Wall Initiative Receives World Bank Green Team Award

World Bank recognizes partnership with GEF in continent-spanning program addressing land degradation and climate change adaptation in Sahel and West Africa

WASHINGTON, DC, Feb. 27, 2013 – The World Bank has awarded a team from the Global Environment Facility (GEF) and the Bank the “Green Team Award” for work on the Sahel and West Africa Program in Support of the Great Green Wall Initiative. The program is part of the comprehensive effort to address land degradation and desertification across an environmentally fragile belt of sub-Saharan Africa.

The award, presented on Wednesday, February 26, in a ceremony at World Bank headquarters, recognizes the GEF-World Bank team for its contribution to developing an integrated approach for 12 African countries to address land degradation, climate change adaptation, biodiversity, forests, and climate change mitigation. 

 “I am really pleased that World Bank and GEF teams work together in partnership on such a transformative and challenging program” said Dr. Naoko Ishii, CEO and Chairperson of the GEF. 

The program, formally known as the Sahel and West Africa Program in Support of the Great Green Wall Initiative (SAWAP/GGWI) reflects key aspects of transformational change that Dr. Ishii envisions for the GEF. The program has been based on addressing the following imperatives: 1) The need to integrate the environment, and natural capital in particular, across the development agenda. The GEF helps strengthen natural assets and enhance resilience to climate change in the context of baseline  investments in rural development and agriculture; 2) The need to involve all key-actors, from local communities to governments, including civil society organizations. In every country a multi-stakeholder dialogue has taken place to ensure country ownership and to align the program with the challenges faced on the ground, and 3) The need to deploy scaled-up and tangible investments based on existing experience and best practice. The whole program is based on $108 million in GEF grant resources leveraging a co-financing of $1.8 billion dollars. For instance, in Chad, the GEF and LDCF resources are coming on the top of two significant baseline projects on agricultural development (US$25 million) and local development ($77.25 million). In Niger, the project is developed on the strengths and weaknesses of previous operations in the country in the areas of decentralization, local governance, community development, and sustainable management of natural resources.

Wednesday’s ceremony provided an opportunity to recall the genesis of this unique GEF-World Bank partnership, and to give an update on progress. 

The Great Green Wall Initiative is a pan-African proposal to battle desertification. It aims at tackling poverty and land degradation in the Sahel-Saharan region, from Dakar on the Atlantic Ocean to Djibouti, on the Indian Ocean, going through ten countries in between.

Launched and supported by various Heads of State, and with support from the African Union for its implementation, the idea of a program involving the World Bank and the GEF took shape little by little. The idea of the program was simple but groundbreaking: how to shape World Bank investments in agriculture and rural development across the region to help countries and communities address their desertification and land degradation issues, and how to match GEF resources to scale up global environment benefits. The point was to not duplicate the various ongoing efforts developed through the GGWI, but to provide an additional support to deliver concrete outcomes and outputs on the ground.

Another principle was also clear, namely, the obligation to develop projects that respond to local needs and situations, being sure that the World Bank is able to work with local communities on transformational changes on the ground to improve the productivity of land, improve incomes, protect and sustainably manage forests and wetlands, and help communities adapt to climate change and variability. 

“Many success stories and approaches should be inspirational, as Farmer Managed Natural Regeneration in Niger or Mali, or the GEF3/WB Integrated Ecosystems Management Project in Burkina Faso” said Paola Agostini, GEF Regional Coordinator for Africa at the World Bank”.

Most of these principles were included in a Ministerial Declaration signed in Bonn in February, 2011, at the headquarters of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification. In May, 2011, the GEF Council approved a $108 million program financed by the GEF, the Least Developed Countries Fund, and the Special Climate Change Fund (for more details on this topic refer to this GEF/World Bank publication). This program was supported by 12 countries and submitted by the World Bank as a GEF Agency. It is interesting to note that beyond the nine Sahelian countries originally committed to the Great Green Wall Initiative, three countries from West Africa asked to join the program to take advantage of the integrated approach to tackling simultaneously land degradation, climate change adaptation, biodiversity, forests, and climate change mitigation.

The main objective of the program is to expand sustainable land and water management in targeted landscapes and in climate-vulnerable areas in West African and Sahelian countries. Under this program, very concrete and operational projects are now developed to reduce land erosion, improve soil fertility, increase crop yield, improve fodder availability, diversify income, strengthen resilience to climate change, increase biodiversity, and much more. Five projects so far have been endorsed by the GEF CEO and four are pending. A regional project, BRICKS (for Building Resilience through Innovation, Communication and Knowledge Services) is also under discussion with the main partners in the region to add coherence in the program, share knowledge and provide monitoring support.

For more information: Great Green Wall Initiative 

Contacts: Jean-Marc Sinnassamy, GEF Sr. Environmental Specialist (, Roland Sundstrom, GEF Adaptation Specialist (