Regreening Africa: Restoring land and livelihoods in the Sahel
Land degradation is a serious threat for development in Africa, particularly in the Sahel where desertification is expanding further south of the Sahara. A combination of climatic factors and human activities have contributed to the expansion of deserts, with an estimated 715 million hectares are degraded, affecting 485 million people. Urgent action is needed to address climate change, and reverse land degradation and biodiversity loss.
Through the Regreening Africa project, the European Union is supporting land restoration across one million hectares, benefitting 500,000 households in Mali, Niger, Senegal, Ghana, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia and Rwanda. The project is implemented by a consortium of partners, and leverages the unique strengths of various programmes and projects to build synergies and avoid duplication of efforts.
The Regreening Africa project builds on the knowledge, experience and commitment of hundreds of thousands of smallholder farmers who are keen to turn the deserts and degraded lands into thriving landscapes.- Davis Wamawungo, Regreening Africa project leader
Through a diverse set of agroforestry practices and practical innovations the initiative has proven that it is indeed possible to restore degraded lands and critical ecosystem functions. Agroforestry is the deliberate and systematic integration of trees into croplands and livestock grazing areas— a crucial ingredient to maintain healthy landscapes capable of providing a wide range of ecosystem goods and services in perpetuity. By incorporating trees into croplands, communal lands and pastoral areas, regreening efforts make it possible to reclaim the continent’s degraded lands for nature and people.
In the Sahel, where climatic conditions and livelihood strategies means the survival of young seedlings cannot be guaranteed, farmer-managed natural regeneration is being scaled up as an alternative. This practice promotes the growth of trees from pre-existing tree stumps and shrubs, and has previously been used to restore 5 million hectares in Zinder and Maradi regions in Niger in the past. It is a low-cost, high-impact practice for restoring arid and semi-arid areas.
Solutions to land degradation, climate change mitigation and reversing biodiversity loss go beyond just planting trees. Restoration is about regaining lost ecological functions and improving the livelihoods of communities who depend on the land. As such, additional activities including soil and water conservation techniques, addressing policy bottlenecks, and strengthening key value chains for income generation have been integrated into the project.
Regreening Africa plays a crucial role in meeting multiple objectives on climate change, biodiversity, action against desertification and sustainable development.- Susan Chomba, Regreening Africa programme manager
The project is part of the Great Green Wall initiative, an ambitious endeavour that aims to create an 8,000-km natural wonder of the world across the entire width of Africa. Launched in 2007 by the African Union with partners such as the European Union, the World Bank and the United Nations, this commitment has catalysed further investments and actions on degradation in the Sahel.