Efforts to finish the Great Green Wall in Africa, which has been halting the desertification of villages near the Sahara, received a multi-billion dollar boost this month—and nations are saying, ‘Merci!’
Following the ‘One Planet Summit for Biodiversity’, held virtually in Paris on January 11, French President Emmanuel Macron announced that $14 Billion was pledged for additional funding over the next ten years.
This financial support will “fast track” the Great Green Wall efforts to restore degraded land, create green jobs, and protect biodiversity in the Sahel and Sahara region, according to the United Nations, which helped organize the Summit.
Among the financiers are the Government of France, the World Bank, and the African Development Bank.
Planting a massive wall of trees across the continent, to span 5,000 miles (8000 kilometers), the Great Green Wall is not only holding back the desert, it is holding back poverty, as well.
Launched in 2007, the African-led initiative originally involved 11 countries, planting and caring for trees that provide an eco-barrier along the southern margin of the Sahara Desert running from the Atlantic coast to the Red Sea.
The region was once a lush oasis of greenery and foliage back in the 1970s, but the combined forces of population growth, unsustainable land management, and climate change turned the area into a barren and degraded swath of land.
By 2019, the initiative had recruited at least nine additional countries to plant drought-resistant acacia trees across the entire width of the continent. By that time, the wall was only 15% percent complete, but had already dramatically impacted the participating countries: Over 12 million acres (5m-hectares) of degraded land had been restored in Nigeria; 30 million acres of drought-resistant trees had been planted across Senegal; and a whopping 37 million acres of land had been restored in Ethiopia, just to name a few of the states involved.
The new funding provides 30% of the development money needed to complete the project by the year 2030.
“The Great Green Wall is an inspiring example of ecosystem restoration in action,” said Susan Gardner, Director of UN Environment Programme’s Ecosystems Division. “It is rapidly becoming a green growth corridor that is bringing investment, boosting food security, creating jobs, and sowing the seeds of peace.”
Mohamed Cheikh El-Ghazouani, President of Mauritania and current chair of the Conference of Heads of State and Government of the Pan-African Agency of the Great Green Wall, cheered the news.
“The mobilization of this additional funding through an innovative approach will certainly contribute to the achievement of the Great Green Wall goals, which aim by 2030, at the restoration of 100 million hectares [42,400 square-miles] of degraded land and the creation of 10 million green jobs,” said Ghazouani.
The approach, using a ‘Great Green Wall Accelerator’ to raise the funds, was responding to new challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, which has strained resources in Africa.
“In a post-COVID context where Sahelian countries are struggling with budgets and funding, this accelerator will help meet financial requirements and turbo charge the achievement of its goals,” notes the UN in a statement.