Africa’s Great Green Wall Gives Viable Return on Investments, Study Finds

ADDIS ABABA – Africa’s Great Green Wall (GGW) program to combat desertification in the Sahel region is not only crucial to the battle against climate change but also makes commercial sense for investors, a new study shows.

Endorsed by the African Union in 2007, the program is Africa’s flagship initiative to restore the degraded lands across 11 African countries on a swathe of land stretching from Senegal to Djibouti and Eritrea.

For every US dollar put into the massive effort to halt land degradation from Senegal in the west to Djibouti in the east, investors can expect an average return of $1.2 dollar, with outcomes ranging between $1.1 dollar and $4.4 dollars, the analysis finds.

“We need to change the rhetoric about the Sahel region,” to reflect the fact that despite its harsh and dry environment, “investors can get a viable return on their investment in efforts to restore the land”, says Moctar Sacande, International Projects Coordinator at FAO’s Forestry Division and one of the study’s lead authors.

The analysis of the study led by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and published in Nature Sustainability on Tuesday, uses field and satellite data to track the land degradation over the period 2001-2018.

It then compares the costs and benefits of restoring the land based on different scenarios adapted to the local contexts.

The results provide the final piece of economic transparency in a jigsaw, with the political will and technical know-how already in place and should encourage the private sector, which is showing increased interest, Sacande says.

– Financial Support –  

The greening and land restoration along this belt stretching 8,000 km across the continent is already underway.

Communities are planting resilient and hardy tree species such as the Acacia Senegal, providing gum Arabic, widely used as an emulsifier in food and drinks and the Gao tree or Faidherbia albida, which helps to fertilize soil for the cultivation of such staples as millet, and for animal fodder, according to FAO.

More than 500 communities have seen improved food security and income generation opportunities with technical support from FAO.

The total area the GGW program encompasses remains limited, with only 4 million hectares out of a targeted 100 million, according to the study.

A total of some 20 billion dollars has been pledged internationally to support the scaling up of the Great Green Wall program.

The fund includes $14.3 billion dollars pledge made at a One Planet summit for biodiversity held in Paris last January and a billion dollars from Amazon founder Jeff Bezos at the recently concluded COP26 climate conference in Scotland.

Concrete details of how these funds can be accessed are yet to be clearly mapped out, says Sacande, adding that unless some of the funding is delivered urgently, it could be too late for planting to catch the limited rainfall expected in June and July.

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