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Monday, 17 July 2017 06:09

Africa renews commitment to restore degraded land

Written by  Macneil Kalowekamo

Lilongwe, July 16, 2017: African governments renewed their commitments to restore degraded arable and forest land through regeneration of trees and shrubs using locally available resources and local farmers at the grassroots. 

Delegates from several countries from southern Africa and other parts of the region met on Wednesday and Thursday for a Southern Africa (SADC+) Bonn Challenge Ministerial Roundtable in Lilongwe to discuss how best they can dress bare lands using natural regeneration process.

Steps towards this commitment included the adoption of the Lilongwe Call for Action that countries has to incorporate in their national strategies and plans in restoring degraded lands.

“This call for action is a very important document because it is emphasizing on activities synonymous with accomplishments,” Bright Msaka, Malawi’s minister of natural resources, energy and mining said at the end of the two-day roundtable. “Let our commitments translate into change on the ground.”

Hot on the agenda was the issue of financing initiatives and commitments towards restoration sustainable restoration of degraded forests and landscapes, with many delegates suggesting the need to look within in mobilising resources.

“Financing is key to every initiative but we can be creative in achieving success without looking for resources outside our countries,” said Msaka.

For a region suffering a great deal from climate shocks, rising temperatures and erratic rainfall patterns, Africa owes itself the obligation to deal with the source of these challenges using internal resources, according to Elvis Paul Tangem, coordinator of Great Green Wall Initiative at African Union.

The Great Green Wall is an African initiative aimed at restoring a stretch of vegetation running 8,000 km across the entire width of the continent from west to east Africa

“Huge amounts of money are running fallow in our countries,” said Tangem. “Let us look internally first, what we can mobilise ourselves before going outside looking help.”

With desertification growing on alarming rate in a continent whose population is set to double to 2.4 billion by 2050, the need to restore degraded land is a priority, says the United Nations Convention on Combating Desertification.

Another initiative to address that challenge is the commitment by national governments to Africa 100 (AFR 100) in which African countries agreed to restore productivity to 100 million hectares of deforested and degraded landscapes to improve livelihoods.

AFR 100 is under the Bonn Challenge, a 2010 agreement reached in Bonn, Germany, in which the world agreed to restore 100 million hectares of land by 2020 before the figure was adjusted to 350 million hectares of land by 2030.

For Africa, the achievement for the AFR100 hinges on people-centred and inclusive restoration initiatives, according to Juliette Biao Koudenoukpo, United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) regional director for Africa.

“We need participation of local farmers by involving all people including women and the youths. These are the people who are bearing the burden of land degradation and facing a grim future in terms livelihood,” Koudenoukpo said.

By May this year, 23 countries had already committed to restore 78.9 million hectares of degraded land with Malawi committing 4.5 million hectares.

The roundtable in Lilongwe saw Chad committing 5 million hectares to AFR100 by 2020. This year’s gathering was held under the theme “Advancing restoration of degraded and deforested landscapes in Southern Africa.”

Republic of Congo, formerly Congo Brazzaville, will host the next regional ministerial roundtable next year.

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