Launch of the international research network for the Great Green Wall

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By Houmi Ahamed-Mikidache

More than 150 key players in the implementation of the Great Green Wall met from 25 to 26 April in Djibouti for the launch of the International Network, “Research, scientific expertise and knowledge for the sustainable management of the lands and territories of the Great Green Wall”. Led by the Pan-African Agency for the Great Green Wall, the Great Green Wall project is a 7,000 km long and 15 km wide cordon reforestation initiative from the Atlantic to the Indian Ocean launched by the Senegalese and Nigerian presidents in 2007. It is a project serving rural communities and societies in the Sahel-Saharan region that brings together several countries: Algeria, Burkina Faso, Benin, Cape Verde, Djibouti, Egypt, Ethiopia, Gambia, Libya, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Somalia, Sudan, Chad and Tunisia

A comprehensive approach

This international research network for the Great Green Wall is described as fully aligned with the Sustainable Development Goals, the African Union’s Agenda 2063 and the Paris Agreement. “We must work together and bring our scientific knowledge, foster exchanges between researchers and ensure mutual enrichment,” said Djibouti’s Minister of Higher Education and Research, Nabil Mohamed Ahmed. The Centre d’études et de recherche de Djibouti (CERD) and the Institut of Research and Development (IRD) jointly organized this event in the capital Djibouti.This research network brings together more than 150 researchers, 17 universities and training and research centres from Southern and Northern countries. It integrates 22 research teams from the South, 15 research units from the North and 4 international joint laboratories of the IRD and is organized around four major research fields: agronomic sciences, earth and universe sciences, environmental and corporate sciences and data sciences.

“We are the communities, the problems and the solutions are ours”  

For Valérie Verdier, President and CEO of the IRD, it is important to “to network all the partners working in research and development around the Great Green Wall in order to advance sustainable solutions for the local population.” 

Tabi Joda, President of the Nigerian-based NGO Green Aid, at the initiative of a soil regeneration movement known as “one billion trees in Africa”, regretted not having been invited to this meeting. Since 2015, he has been working with African village communities and planting trees.

Tabi Joda, initiateur d'un milliard d'arbres pour l'Afrique @Green Aid
Tabi Joda, Creator of one billion trees for Africa @Green Aid

“We are the people who understand the communities, who live with the communities: we have the best ideas, the best research, knowledge and methodologies to achieve the objectives of the Great Green Wall and yet we have never been invited.” He continued, “It is important to include ourselves in this type of meeting, to integrate communities, we are communities, the problems and solutions are ours.”  

In Djibouti, scientists have emphasized to work in synergy with the reality of local situations, promote development and preserve nature. “The goal of this network is to support the Great Green Wall program in the implementation of land management, which aims to rehabilitate 100 million hectares of land, create 10 million jobs and sequester 250 million tonnes of CO2. », said Oumarou Malam Issa, director of research at the IRD, specialized in soil sciences. 

The network also intends to support integrated and interdisciplinary research initiatives, as well as South-North and South-South scientific cooperation actions, capacity building, data exchange and sharing, training and dissemination of knowledge for effective coordination and implementation of the activities and policies of the Great Green Wall.  

“Many countries are expressing their desire to join the Great Green Wall initiative. The issues raised are real and concern almost the entire African continent (desertification, climate change, etc.),” concluded Thiam Sakhoudia, Head of Research and Development, Pan-African Agency for the Great Green Wall.  

How to meet the expectations of the populations?

According to the network’s initiators, this mechanism should provide a framework for regular exchanges between scientists, decision-makers, development operators and policy makers in connection with arid areas and thus meet the expectations of the population.

For Tabi Joda, it is necessary above all to take into account the feelings of the communities beforehand and he wonders, “what kind of solutions can be found without taking into account voices, ideas, without consultation, without the commitment of people on the ground?”  

According to the president of Green Aid, 7 million trees have been planted in Africa by his NGO since 2015. “Our solutions are tangible and measurable, and they bring the ecosystem back to life and restore biodiversity loss, that’s what communities want to see and that’s what we’re doing,” he said.

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