The “BRICKS” in the Great Green Wall

March 24, 2014

GEF as catalyzer of global environmental knowledge
GEF as catalyzer of global environmental knowledge

Sharing knowledge efficiently is critical to the success of programs dealing with big interventions across multiple countries. The Sahel and West Africa Program in Support of the Great Green Wall Initiative (SAWAP) is no exception and this is why the Global Environment Facility and the World Bank have partnered to launch the "BRICKS".

This GEF-funded regional project Building Resilience through Innovation, Communication and Knowledge Services (BRICKS), implemented by the World Bank, has three main objectives: 

  1. To establish a knowledge platform on Sustainable Land Management, including a help-desk on monitoring issues.
  2. To identify innovative approaches and generating knowledge.
  3. To share this knowledge among key stakeholders, while raising awareness on sustainable land management among the general public. 

Three regional centers of excellence, namely the Permanent Interstate Committee for Drought Control in the Sahel (CILSS in French), the Sahara and Sahel Observatory (OSS), and International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), will each lead a specific component of the BRICKS. More specifically CILSS will take on a coordinating role and will facilitate knowledge sharing among all projects and the actors involved. OSS and IUCN will instead support government institutions in building capacity to collect data and generate lessons learned.

The SAWAP initiative is helping countries to adapt to a changing climate and improve their natural resources management. It is being carried out through 12 GEF-funded projects, implemented by the World Bank, in the 12 sub-Saharan participating countries, from Senegal to Ethiopia. GEF is contributing $100 million to SAWAP to implement sustainable land and water management projects in climate vulnerable areas. These funds complement a World Bank investment of approximately $2.8 billion that supports the rural development in the sub-Saharan region. Sharing knowledge across the SAWAP represent a great challenge, given the number of institutions involved, the different languages spoken, and the multiple environmental issues addressed (i.e., sustainable land and forest management, climate change adaptation, biodiversity conservation, etc.).

The BRICKS project was officially launched during a three-day workshop that took place on March 19-22, 2014, in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso. One of the main outcomes of the workshop has been the establishment of communities of practice. They aim at streamlining the transfer of information - in areas such as land and water management, livestock, monitoring and evaluations - among project team members, and academia, government agencies, and international organizations' representatives.

In addition to the financial support ($4.6 million), the GEF is contributing to the BRICKS by sharing lessons learned in similar initiatives and facilitating south-south cooperation. For this reason, during the conference, GEF staff presented the experience of the Sustainable Land and Ecosystem Management (SLEM) Programme. This regional initiative, carried out in the state of Uttarakhand, India, has demonstrated best practice levels in the use of communication and knowledge sharing activities. With the help of local partners NGOs, SLEM has achieved all the stated objectives thanks to the engagement of well-informed local communities. Furthermore, the parallel creation of women's association have ensured that those social and economic changes, occurred thanks to the project, are now part of the new decision making process, expanding the project benefits well beyond its initial scope.