Brussels/Rome - The European Union (EU) and FAO in collaboration with the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States (ACP) have launched a €41 million, 4.5-year programme to bolster sustainable land management and restore drylands and degraded lands in Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific.
The programme, named Action Against Desertification, is crucial in fighting hunger and poverty, fostering stability and building resilience to climate change in some of the world's most vulnerable areas, the programme sponsors say.
More than 70 percent of people living in drylands and other fragile ecosystems across Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific derive their livelihoods from natural resources. But population growth and climate change put increasing pressure on these ecosystems, exacerbating degradation and desertification of increasingly overexploited lands.
"Desertification and land degradation are very serious challenges. They lead to hunger and poverty, themselves at the root of many conflicts," said José Graziano da Silva , FAO's Director-General about the need for the programme. "But recent successes show that these problems are not insurmountable. We can boost food security, improve livelihoods and help people adapt to climate change."
The EU's Development Commissioner, Andris Piebalgs said: "Sustainable land management is crucial to tackling the triple challenges we face from climate change, loss of biodiversity and food insecurity. This new programme will help those communities most affected by these problems to better manage their resources, use them to create jobs and generate income and invest in them for future generations."
"Hunger and poverty, climate change, deforestation, land degradation, desertification and the loss of biodiversity are all interlinked," underlined Alhaji Muhammad Mumuni, Secretary General of the ACP. "Integrated approaches to landscape management are necessary, as well as new policies, investments and capacities to address these challenges in ACP countries."
Building on the Great Green Wall
In Africa, the programme's efforts build on the Great Green Wall for the Sahara and the Sahel Initiative, established in 2007, which has become Africa's flagship initiative to combat the effects of climate change and desertification.
Action Against Desertification will continue supporting local communities, government and civil society in Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, the Gambia, Niger, Nigeria and Senegal in the sustainable management and restoration of their dryland forests and rangelands.
It will support agro-forestry and promote income-generation activities, as well as the creation of employment opportunities in rural areas, especially for youth and women, based on the sustainable production, processing and marketing of agricultural products and forest goods and services.
Farmer field schools and knowledge exchanges will allow farmers to learn about the causes of desertification and the best ways to combat and prevent it.
Faraway places, similar challenges
Although located on the other side of the globe, both the Caribbean and the Pacific face similar challenges as Africa. Unsustainable land management practices have caused soil loss, degraded natural habitats, contributed to the loss of biodiversity and reduced natural buffers to droughts and floods.
Action Against Desertification will concentrate on Haiti in the Caribbean and Fiji in the Pacific, and be an example of increasing South-South cooperation by building on lessons learned from Africa's Great Green Wall Initiative to help local communities adopt improved sustainable land- and forest-management practices, while enhancing capacities of governmental and non-governmental organizations to support these efforts.
Action Against Desertification is a joint FAO and ACP-EU programme, whose funding includes €20 million from the European Development Fund.
It is implemented by FAO in partnership with the African Union Commission, the governments of the concerned countries, the ACP Secretariat, the Global Mechanism of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), the Royal Botanic Gardens of Kew and the Walloon Region of Belgium, as well as other partners.