22 June 2011 zichtbaarzijn

By Ben Haagsma

African Heads of States in the Sahelian States have developed 5-6 years ago the Great Green Wall (GGW) initiative, constituting a green belt of trees approximately 8000 kilometers long and 15 kilometers wide to stop the encroachment of the Sahara desert. Though the initiative has been welcomed as a positive contribution to stop desertification and develop an answer to the impacts of climate change, concerns have been raised by various experts about the sustainability of the great green wall, if ecosystems and the bottom-up involvement of local communities and groups are not well integrated in the initiative.The Netherlands Red Cross requested Fair & Sustainable Advisory Services to conduct a mapping of successful local interventions in and around this GGW zone to facilitate the inclusion of eco-restoration and local food security programmes in this Great Green Wall initiative. The mapping looked for promising experiences and concrete results of relevant local interventions with enough up-scaling perspective that would be crucial for this purpose. Subject of this mapping were the organizations that belong to the Partners for Resilience Alliance (Wetlands International, Red Cross, Cordaid, CARE, Both Ends and IUCN) and the Africa Re-greening Initiative (ARI, VU-Adam)

The mapping demonstrated that there is a wealth of successes, which have reached clear status of sustainability. Likewise there is a tremendous perspective on rapid scaling-up of these successes. The technical partners (Wetlands and ARI) in particular are scoring high in terms of scope and quality of their successes in wetlands and dry lands respectively. This thus shows the intricate linkages between wet and dry lands for the sustainable management of natural resources in the Sahel.

Sustainability of successes combine local successes in the field, realized and strongly driven by land users themselves as well as relevant policy changes at higher levels. Policy makers, funding agencies and academics are fascinated by these local successes and have changed their paradigms moving away from tree planting as the single approach towards eco-restoration.

Upscaling is promoted by the following factors. Firstly, many interventions are relatively cheap in terms of costs per ha. Knowledge dissemination by exchange visits is key for spreading the success. Secondly, the extent and type of personal relations at different levels, ranging from innovative farmers, local organisations and traditional institutions, to high ranked officials, technical staff from forestry and environmental departments and funding agencies. Thirdly, there are clear efforts made to test and validate the current approaches by own improved monitoring and evaluation, as well as by collaboration with scientific institutions.

This mapping was limited in time. All organisations pointed at other promising cases of successful eco-restoration elsewhere in the GGW zone to be included in this initiative as soon as possible.

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