The First Africa Drylands Week explored the challenges posed by land degradation, desertification, climate change and poverty in the Sahelo-Saharan region by drawing on Africa’s experience, where 44% of the land area is drylands and desert.
The combined effects of land degradation, deforestation and soil exhaustion are particularly severe in arid and semi-arid lands. They are driven by overexploitation of forests, trees, bush and grazing land, inadequate management of soil and water resource as well as poverty and limited development opportunities and exacerbated by climate change. Field visits showcasing good practices in Senegal, testimonies of local populations and discussion with the policy makers, NGOs and the scientific and research community showed that the efforts to combat desertification and mitigate the effects of climate change and drought must include an Africa-wide alliance, involving initiatives such as the Great Green Wall for the Sahara and Sahel Initiative including MDG-based poverty-reduction strategies aimed at transforming local community livelihoods and environment through best practices such as farmer-managed natural regeneration and other agroforestry systems led by local communities.
Climate change in particular is demanding a renewed response to environmental and development challenges in countries with arid and semi-arid zones. The African drylands share similar challenges as well as unique opportunities, indicating the need for a framework of convergence.
There is a need to establish a harmonized strategy for the Great Green Wall for the Sahara and Sahel integrating scientific, technical, social, economic and political areas of intervention. The First Africa Drylands Week found that a coalition of stakeholders and organizations should be established to integrate all stakeholders from the various sectors. An integrated system of crops, livestock, native fauna, forests, trees, pastoral systems and other woodlands will capitalize on good practices already in place, such as agroforestry systems, rehabilitation and restoration of degraded forests and lands, integrated soil and water management, dune fixation, and integrated livelihoods, as part of the MDG rural development plans. Moreover, action will need to consider urban and peri-urban forestry as well as poverty-reduction strategies. At the same time, a flexible approach will encourage strategic decision-making at the local level and harmonize and integrate interventions among stakeholders and sectors.
A series of programmes and project actions were proposed. For example, integrated ecosystem, landscape and multi-sectoral rural development will improve livelihoods, biophysical conditions and strengthen the capacity for sustainable Drylands management and socio-economic development. Decentralized governance and people-centred development will allow sustainable land management to be mainstreamed into local development planning and budgeting. Markets and incentive mechanisms will provide access to credit and financial institutions and support development of value chains of dryland goods and services. An integrated, institutional and investment framework will allow strategic sustainable land management to be aligned amongst ministries, donors and the planning and budgeting strategies of other partners. Multi-level partnerships, networks and negotiation will enable scientific, technical, financial and policy partners to capitalize on their comparative advantages. A comprehensive evidence base will allow informed decision support, targeted interventions and influence research, development and policy programmes as well as focusing on relevant scientific questions.
Integrated monitoring and evaluation systems, communications strategies and knowledge management platforms will assess the impact of different interventions and promote information sharing and adoption of sustainable land management practices at wider scale. Communication is key and involves the complex of target audiences and ensure political, scientific and local understanding, involvement and support and facilitate resource mobilization efforts.
Together partners reinforced their commitment by identifying concrete actions, as well as technical and financial inputs, to achieve the vision for a Great Green Wall for the Sahara and the Sahel. There are many major successes that have already been achieved providing excellent basis on which to build. They have also recommended the organization of a Second Africa Drylands Week to maintain the momentum built by this first very successful gathering.
This First Africa Drylands Week demonstrated renewed solidarity and unity throughout the Circum-Saharan region. Scientific and operational partnership, based on comprehensive consultation and inclusive approaches and methodologies between the development and cooperation partners, countries and civil society will reinforce governance systems, including sustainable land management, land tenure and secure livelihoods. Under this framework, individual countries, or groups of countries will be able to develop their own initiatives that will together contribute to successful land management, combat effects of climate change, prevent and combat desertification, conserve biodiversity and mitigate the vulnerability of rural and urban societies and ensure food security for the tens of millions of families, across the Sahara and the Sahel.