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UN recognises two African eco initiatives

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By Abiodun Okunloye

These initiatives focus on safeguarding ecosystems from complete deterioration.

Two African initiatives have been recognized by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) as noteworthy components of the UN’s World Restoration Flagships. UNEP, in its announcement preceding the Sixth Session of the UN Environment Assembly (UNEA-6) on February 13, 2024, specified that these initiatives focus on safeguarding ecosystems on the brink of complete deterioration caused by rampant wildfires, persistent droughts, rampant deforestation, and pervasive pollution. From February 26 to March 1, the upcoming sixth session will take place in Nairobi.

One of the initiatives is the Regreening Africa’s Agriculture, a distinguished effort emanating from Africa. Over the last twenty years, this initiative has successfully employed tested agroforestry methods, meticulously customised to meet the requirements of farmers in different socio-ecological settings. The results have been astonishing, with the restoration of an impressive 350,000 hectares in countries such as Ethiopia, Rwanda, Senegal, Ghana, Kenya, Mali, Niger, and Somalia. Envisioning the future, the initiative aims to restore an additional five million hectares by 2030.

Agricultural landscape and food system are transformed.

Also, the African continent has witnessed the emergence of an innovative project known as Growing Forests in Africa’s Drylands. This initiative, acknowledged as the second milestone in Africa, focuses on revitalizing the agricultural landscape and transforming the food system. Launched in 2015, this forest garden program has gained momentum across various countries. These include Cameroon, Uganda, the Central African Republic, Chad, Kenya, Mali, The Gambia, Senegal, and Tanzania. Agencies involved in this venture have now deemed the changemakers eligible for extensive technical and financial assistance from global organizations.

The recognition, led by the UN agencies, forms an integral aspect of the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration. This crucial initiative works towards the prevention, cessation, and reversal of ecosystem deterioration across all continents and oceans. By acknowledging significant endeavours, it reckons efforts that align with global commitments to restore a total of one billion hectares. The detrimental trend of prioritizing economic progress over environmental welfare has persisted for an extensive period of time. Nevertheless, in the present day, there is a widespread observation of worldwide endeavours aiming to revive and restore the natural world.

Local communities and employment opportunities are prioritized.

Inger Andersen, the Executive Director of UNEP, emphasized the need to intensify and quicken restoration efforts in order to combat the pressing global challenges of a deteriorating climate, diminishing biodiversity, and rising pollution. These crucial initiatives not only demonstrate their ability to reconcile with nature but also prioritize the involvement of local communities while generating employment opportunities. According to international organizations, the anticipated effects of these seven groundbreaking projects entail the revitalization of nearly 40 million hectares, which is an expanse approximately 600 times larger than Nairobi. These initiatives are anticipated to generate approximately half a million job opportunities.

In his statement, QU Dongyu, the Director-General of FAO, expressed his delight in acknowledging these admirable champions. Their significant achievements demonstrate that they have the ability to reverse the deterioration of ecosystems on a large scale while simultaneously combatting the consequences of the climate crisis and declining biodiversity. The restoration of both land-based and aquatic ecosystems plays a vital role in the overall transformation of worldwide agri-food systems, enabling them to become more effective, inclusive, resilient, and sustainable.

Related Article: GEF allocates $916m for environmental action

Lastly, ecosystem restoration not only helps to alleviate poverty, hunger, and malnutrition but also promotes biodiversity and mitigates the effects of climate change. By restoring degraded ecosystems, we can create sustainable livelihoods for local communities, restore essential ecological processes, and enhance food security. Moreover, ecosystem restoration plays a crucial role in conserving water resources, reducing the risk of natural disasters, and improving overall human well-being. Therefore, prioritizing and investing in ecosystem restoration initiatives is paramount for a sustainable future.

Related Link

UNEP: Website

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