Now is the time to further accelerate land restoration efforts in the Sahel and make a difference to hundreds of millions of communities in the ecologically fragile area, key stakeholders agreed at the Beating Famine Conference in Bamako.
The capital city of Mali saw hundreds of stakeholders congregate to address the critical land restoration issues facing the Sahel. In the Conference Declaration at the end of the event, the wide range of partners reflected on the importance of urgent action to ramp up coordinated and concrete actions to overcome the food and nutrition insecurity in the fragile region.
Robert Guei Gouantoueu, Coordinator of the Subregional Office of FAO for West Africa, said, “The fight against hunger, which is the core mandate of our organization, cannot be achieved without the sustainable management of natural resources and the restoration of degraded lands. These efforts are congruent in making our agriculture, our forests, and our pastures in the Sahel to be more productive and resilient to climate change.”
Communities depend heavily on the exploitation of natural resources from extensive pastoralism to rain-fed food crops, collection of non-timber forest products for food or pharmacopoeia, and firewood and charcoal for cooking. As desertification encroaches into the arable lands, FAO latest study shows that there are 10 million hectares of degraded land in need for restoration per year in the Sahara and Sahel region to sustain the livelihood of millions of people.
In the Sahel, these natural resources are subject to strong and combined biophysical and human related s pressures including low and erratic rains, high temperatures, high aridity, and often poor and easily degradable soils, overexploitation of resources, demographic boom, climate change, insecurity, and weak governance exacerbate such challenges.
Gouantoueu added that it is still possible to achieve the ambitious goal of restoring these millions of hectares in the Sahel. He cited that many Sahelian countries have already embarked on pan-African initiatives such as the Great Green Wall and the African Forest landscape Initiative (AFR100).
The Beating Famine Conference brought together representatives from governments, international non-governmental organizations (NGOs), United Nations agencies, farmer producer organizations, community-based organizations (CBOs), and the private sector, to explore ways of accelerating the regreening and restoration agenda for food and nutrition security in Africa and in particular in the Sahel.
At the end of the Conference, participants signed off on the Declaration that acknowledged the Sahel has reached a crisis state from long-term trend in land degradation and effects of climate change. Participants called for urgent and focused action to scale-up cost-effective land restoration, climate change adaptation, and regreening initiatives on a massive basis. All these to ensure future food, nutrition, and water security, especially for smallholder farmers and pastoralists.
FAO Representative to Mali Amadou Allahoury Diallo lauded the Declaration and said, “The FAO looks at this event as an opportunity to place a large-scale restoration model placing communities at the heart of our collective action, combining scientific and traditional knowledge in the use and enhancement of Sahelian biodiversity. The key to the success of all our collaboration lies on strengthening the resilience of production systems and working closely with communities.”
FAO’s work on land restoration
The Sahel zone and the West African sub-region continue to be vulnerable to the impact of large-scale land and water degradation, soil infertility, climate change and population growth, compounded by the lack of socio-economic opportunities. These factors gave rise to the likelihood of increased chronic malnutrition and insecurity in the region.
In Africa, FAO’s initiative on Action Against Desertification (AAD), funded by the European Union, restores drylands and degraded lands in the region with the overview of tackling issues on the detrimental social, economic and environmental impact of land degradation and desertification.
As key partner of the Great Green Wall initiative, Africa's flagship programme to combat the effects of climate change and desertification across North Africa, the Sahel and the Horn of Africa, AAD supports local communities, government and civil society in six African countries from Burkina Faso to Ethiopia, The Gambia, Niger, Nigeria and Senegal. The approach and model of this project is now deployed to reach out other countries including Sudan, Eritrea and Mauritania with Turkish funding support as well as to Mali with the support of The Climate Finance in Mali in collaboration with UNDP and partners.
Diallo of FAO Mali added, “We need to restore degraded land and to manage fragile ecosystems in a sustainable way. We have the duty to work in synergy, to mobilize and make the most of advances, experiences, good practices and new technologies for scaling up field actions in all countries.”
FAO places importance in having a system in place based on sustainable natural resource management, conservation of local biodiversity and resilience to climate change.Distributed by APO Group on behalf of FAO Regional Office for Africa.