By Mary Hearty

Two years on since the One Planet Summit, 80% of the US$19 billion pledged towards the Great Green Wall Accelerator has been programmed across the 11 African nations that are part of the initiative.

However, continued political leadership and country ownership, targeted action at all levels, and strengthened institutional arrangements are required to realize the vision of this Africa-led movement.

This is according to findings from a new analysis report of the Great Green Wall Accelerator, commissioned by the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), which takes stock of the progress achieved since 2021 and identifies a series of recommendations for action.

The report comes when countries and partners involved in the Great Green Wall Initiative are set to hold a consultative meeting on 30 March 2023 under Nigeria’s rotating chairmanship of the Initiative.

Ibrahim Thiaw is Under-Secretary-General and Executive Secretary of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) says the Great Green Wall is one of the most inspiring and ambitious examples of land restoration in the world as it is creating a mosaic of green and productive landscapes across Africa, creating jobs, protecting climate, and improving livelihoods.

As of 2020, 20 million hectares of land have been restored, over 350,000 jobs have been created, and approximately $90 million has been generated between 2007 and 2018 through Great Green Wall activities, according to the analysis report.

At current rates of progress, the restored area is expected to sequester more than 300 million tons of carbon dioxide by 2030, which would represent about 30% of the GGW Initiative’s original target.

To reach the restoration target of 100 million hectares of land by 2030, an average of 8.2 million hectares of land per year would need to be restored at an annual financial investment of US$4.3 billion.

Thus far, US$ 2.5 billion of the funding pledged at the One Planet Summit has been disbursed, with the remaining US$17.5 billion expected by the end of 2025.

However, this still falls short of the US$33 billion that is needed to achieve the Great Green Wall vision to restore 100 million hectares of degraded lands by 2030 and create 10 million jobs in a region marked by unemployment and migration.

“Implementing such a large and complex programme in the Sahel, one of the harshest regions on Earth is no easy task. The fact that the Sahel region is inflicted with interconnected political, social, and environmental challenges certainly complicates operations on the ground but makes intervention even more critical,” Thiaw stated.

In the two years since the One Planet Summit, the Great Green Wall Accelerator helped identify and match funding for 150 projects covering all countries that are part of the Great Green Wall.

These countries are: Sudan, Nigeria, Niger, Mauritania, Mali, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Chad, Burkina Faso, Senegal and Djibouti.

National Great Green Wall coalitions have been established in 9 out of the 11 countries, bringing together governments, international donors, the private sector, and civil society to chart the way forward for implementation in countries.

Vast tracts of land along the Great Green Wall have already been restored by local communities. The Great Green Wall Accelerator has put in place a robust quality assurance and monitoring framework, which will be made available as a digital platform for countries to keep track of progress on the ground.

The Accelerator has been extremely proactive and has provided a high level of expertise in the areas it has addressed, namely, governance and advocacy, monitoring and evaluation, and resource mobilization, concludes the Independent Review of the Great Green Wall Accelerator completed at the end of February 2023.

The report also identified weaknesses in the system, for instance, institutional weaknesses notably due to insufficient financial and human resources as well as political support for the regional and national agencies for the Great Green Wall. This situation may put at risk the sustainability of the achievements of the Accelerator in the longer term.

As a long term partner of the Great Green Wall, the UNCCD therefore calls on all governments and partners to intensify their support to ensure that the high-level political leadership of Africa’s flagship initiative translates into country ownership and tangible results on the ground.

For this, countries need to strengthen regional and national and national institutional structures to ensure they are fit for purpose, and accelerate action at all levels in support of the Great Green Wall.