A new African initiative to combat desertification and strengthen resilience to climate change in the Sahel and Horn of Africa was launched at TICAD VI in Nairobi last month. On the margins of the Sixth Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD VI), the GEF joined the the governments of Kenya and Senegal, together with the Japan International Cooperation Agency to announce a new effort to confront the challenges of Africa’s drylands.
Speaking at the launch, GEF CEO Naoko Ishii said, “There are already a wide range of opportunities, frameworks, and ideas proposed for addressing resilience in the drylands, but translating these into tangible actions will not happen without a coordinated approach by all stakeholders, and alignment of resources and financing opportunities.” The new African initiative aims to promote measures for combating desertification by the countries in the region and supports efforts of development partners through knowledge-sharing and improving access to finance. The initiative will also seek to harmonize ongoing efforts by partner countries and organizations for effectively addressing the regions desertification challenges.
In the Sahel and the Horn of Africa, much of the land, consisting of desert and drylands, is estimated to be degraded. However, drylands are home to millions of people whose livelihoods are intertwined with the natural environment. In many countries, they are considered “bread baskets” because of their importance for production of major staple foods. But droughts have affected people’s livelihoods in the region in recent years, with the added impact of climate change making droughts more frequent and their effects more profound and severe.
As a financial mechanism for the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), also part of the initiative, the GEF is committed to protecting drylands.
“Over the last decade, the GEF has been promoting integrated and system-wide approaches to natural resource management in dryland countries,” said Ishii. “With financing of more than US$350 million in several major programs focused on drylands over the last five years, the GEF is helping to establish a strong foundation for sustainability and resilience.”
As a result of GEF financing, countries in the drylands are putting in place policies and investment strategies for sustainable land management, which will also support implementation of commitments they have made under the African Environment Initiative Action Plan and Comprehensive African Agricultural Development Program.
Countries in the Sahel and broader West Africa region are also implementing their vision of a Great Green Wall with more than two million hectares of production land to be protected from risks of desertification and drought. This GEF-supported project is creating multi-stakeholder platforms at the national and regional levels to coordinate and invest in the integrated management of natural resources in smallholder agriculture.