The First Africa Drylands Week provides a forum for the different development institutions and countries to learn from each other as well as to develop clear plans for collective action. The outputs produced during this week are expected to benefit other development institutions and countries within and outside the region in forthcoming reforms of their natural resource management and climate-change adaptation practices. It is hoped that results from the conference will influence policy formulation as well as recognition and integration of progressive tools and approaches for sustainable land management and climate resilient strategies for the Sahara and the Sahel and the same will be submitted to the ongoing process of Rio+20.
The First African Drylands Week started with three (3) days field visits followed on Day 1 (Monday 13th) by a panel discussion on Challenges and Opportunities with eleven (11) interventions in the morning, a World Café on Africa Drylands: Challenges and Opportunities and working groups on Substantive Lessons in Practice, Process and Policy for Sustainable Drylands in the afternoon (cf. Agenda)
Interventions were to “bring (some) critical stones to build the wall”. This session was intended to bring participants back to basics and focus attention to the functional land uses and the ecosystem processes that underpin them. With this in mind, the speakers were invited to be both brilliant and brief in delivering key messages associated with their topic. These messages were for reinforcing what is known and highlighting innovations and solutions (technologies, tools, programs, policies) that should be included in achieving sustainable lives and landscapes in the drylands. Each presenter concluded his intervention with a take home message
The World Café was developed to encourage interactions between participants. During this session, participants were asked to focus on what matters, contribute their thinking, speak their mind and heart, listen to understand, link and connect ideas, listen together for insights, patterns and deeper questions but also to play, doodle, draw and write on papers and table cloths.
Discussions were focused on the following key questions:
- What are the main three insights related to ensuring sustainable drylands that you have taken away from today’s work? What would you add?
- What questions still need to be answered?
- In what way can this First Africa Drylands Week create something transformative that will result in ACTION benefiting livelihoods and reversing/ending desertification by 2021?
- What role will you play in that – this week and over the next 10 years?
The working groups were action-oriented and concisely delivered ideas and insights that were fed into the group’s strategy efforts. The working groups started on day 1 (Monday 13th) and continued on Day 2 (Tuesday 14th) after the Opening Ceremony. The working groups were:
- Group 1. Rehabilitation of degraded lands and fighting sand encroachment in arid zones;
- Group 2. The Science and Practice of Regreening the Sahel: Integrated Systems in the Arid and Semi-Arid Lands (ASALs);
- Group 3. Small and medium enterprises: Value-chain of dryland products (local, national, international);
- Group 4. Initiatives and Processes for Sustainable Land Management (contributing to all 3 conventions: UNFCCC, UNCBD, UNCCD).
In addition to the information shared the previous day and the experience of participants in the room, a number of presentations (8-10 minutes) were made per working group from which to build upon for the working groups session. Each presentation emphasized on the state of research and data, impacts, and/or lessons in implementation related to the working group topic.
The outcome for each of the working groups is an action articulated as specifically as possible, addressing, as relevant:
- What is the best-case scenario outcome for proposed action plan associated with this component? What happens if no action is taken?
- What are the proposed priority strategies and actions (e.g. mix of practices, processes and policies that are most valuable)?
- Who are the stakeholders and networks involved?
- What must be in place at different levels to underpin long-term sustainability of the strategy and impacts;
- What additional trends and tools might be brought to bear to mobilize greater impact?
- What will make this action plan ‘stick’ long beyond this week?
Each group presented their reports in plenary.
Day 3 (Wednesday 15th) was on the Great Green Wall for the Sahara and Sahel Initiative (GGWSSI) – Vision, status of planning and implementation where participants were organized by region:
- North Africa (Algeria, Morocco, Mauritania, Sudan and others)
- West Africa (Burkina Faso, Niger, Mali, Senegal, Cameroon, Chad, Nigeria, Togo and others)
- Eastern Africa (Sudan, Ethiopia, Kenya, Eritrea and others)
Each region was to work based on the framework elements emerging from this week:
- Design one or two proposals (concepts) that should be integrated into national and/or sub-regional plans towards the implementation of the Great Green Wall.
- Include desired outcome, objectives, actions, timeline and actors
- What are some resources (current projects, institutions, networks, technical and financial) in place and which are needed (gaps) to carry this out?
Regions were also asked to provide their vision for the GGWSSI by looking at the following key questions:
- What does a regional vision look for 2021?
- Starting to build the matrix, what practices, processes (capacity development, advocacy, etc.), and policies (in time sequence) that have been articulated earlier are the most relevant to the desired impact for this region?
- Which (or which additional) institutions and actors must be in place to advance the vision in the region?
- What resources (current projects, institutions, networks, etc. and finances) are in place and which are needed?
- What mechanisms (Conventions,Rio+20, etc.) can be capitalized upon to build political will?
- What concretely can be done in the next 3, 6 and 12 months?
Day 4 (Thursday 16th) was marked by declarations and commitments from partners institutions (FAO, Earth Institute/MDG WCA, AFF, ICRAF, PNUD, UNDP, UNCCD, CBD-secretariat, ICRAF, CILSS, EU commission, IUCN, IRD etc…).
Day 5 (Friday 17th), World day to combat desertification; starting with an inaugural speech by Prof Jeffrey Sachs, Director of the Earth Institute and Special adviser of the UN Secretary General, followed by a 10 min. documentary on desertification by John Liu; a testimonial from a community representative Mrs Naho Fall; a message from the UN secretary General Mr Ban Ki Moon; a message from the UNCCD Executive secretary, Mr Luc Gnaca Dja; the launching of the UNCCD tool kits and a press conference.