19th February 2020
AI-CD Secretariat Support Team
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, all activities of the African Initiative for Combating Desertification to Strengthen Resilience to Climate Change in the Sahel and Horn of Africa (AI-CD) have been undertaken online.
Following the online 4th Regional Forum for the Horn of Africa in December 2020, recently the Sahel Region launched similar activity. The fourth Regional Forum for the Sahel on AI-CD was held virtually on 27 January 2021, chaired by Senegal as the Regional Hub.
Said Forum welcomed around 60 participants composed of the AI-CD Focal Points (FPs) of Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Mali, Nigeria and Senegal; international and regional partners including African Development Bank, African Union, CILSS, FAO, ICARDA, and World Bank; Regional Hub of the Horn of Africa (Kenya FP); representatives from the Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development (MESD) of Senegal and JICA; and the AI-CD Secretariat.
The highlights of the Forum included reporting the progress of AI-CD countries’ initiatives and a direct discussion between FPs and ITFPs through which valuable information on recent funding opportunities were shared.
HIGHLIGHTS OF THE FORUM
Dr. Sakhoudia Thiam, Number 2 Advisor to the MESD, chaired the opening session, welcomed the participants and reminded that AI-CD is addressing desertification which is one of the most challenging issues in this century.
Mr. Koichi Kato, Senior Representative of JICA Senegal, in his opening remark, underlined the fact that there is only one-and-a-half years left prior to the completion of AI-CD in 2022. He emphasized the high importance of the Forum to accelerate activities to achieve the objectives of AI-CD.
Mr. Baba Ba, the Representative of the Sahel Hub, presented the objectives of the Forum, and that is to discuss the possibilities resulting from Networking and Knowledge Sharing to improve access to finance for the FPs. To this end, each FP is expected to share the level of progress of his/her activities concerning the three AI-CD pillars as well as a feedback on the concept note he/she is supposed to elaborate and submit eventually to donors.
(1) Progress of AI-CD activities by member countries and AI-CD Secretariat
✔ AI-CD Secretariat explained the progress and way forward of AI-CD in relation to its three pillars: Networking, Knowledge Sharing and Access to Finance.
✔ The Focal Point of Cameroon pointed out that most of their activities in relation to knowledge sharing were carried out on the occasion of World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought. He added that, in terms of access to finance, they developed project ideas related to land restoration in the Sahel zone and identified potential partners.
✔ The Focal Point of Mali focused his presentation on a Project Concept Note (PCN) on “Sustainable Land Management” and explained that their target areas are the three most degraded regions for restoration and reforestation. He also mentioned his hope to hold a Country Workshop (CWS) to promote AI-CD domestically.
✔ The Focal Point of Nigeria introduced their acquirement of funds for a pilot project on risk reduction of sand and dust storms with sponsorship and assistance from UNCCD. She added that the participants to the AI-CD country workshop in Nigeria in April 2019 shared their ideas on way forward to combat desertification among domestic stakeholders, which is considered a progress on networking.
✔ The acting Focal Point of Senegal mentioned that the country’s target is to identify interesting platforms and provide useful information contributing to smoothening their access to finance. For instance, they provided assistance to prepare a project draft on mangrove swamp management that was eventually submitted to European Union for financial support request.
✔ The Focal Point of Burkina Faso encountered an internet connection problem and was not able to participate in a timely manner. Nevertheless, during the closing session, he expressed his thanks to the organisers of the Forum.
✔ Head of Knowledge Management of the Kenyan Forestry Research Institute (KEFRI), as the Representative of the Horn of Africa Hub, shared progress in the Horn of Africa Region. He introduced a recently conducted technical tour on peri-urban farming and mentioned the online Horn of Africa Regional Forum in December 2020 which enabled FPs to interact with ITFPs on funding opportunities as well as developing and presenting concept notes.
(2) Open debates
Following the presentations by the FPs, comments and recommendations were given by several participants including the Director of Waters and Forests of MESD of Senegal, the Director of Planning and Environmental Watch of the MESD-Senegal, the former Coordinator of the National Agency of the Great Green Wall Initiative (GGWI) of Senegal, FAO Representative, the National Coordinator of GEF-Small Grant Program (GEF-SGP) of Senegal and the Senior Advocacy Officer of Wetland International. One of the common points highlighted in their remarks is the need for better coordination with various existing initiatives/frameworks for harmony and facilitation to access finance.
(3) Strategies of ITFPs relevant to AI-CD Agenda and progress by AI-CD partners
With the participation of many partners, including the African Union who attended the AI-CD Regional Forum for the first time, meaningful discussions were held among the participants.
✔ The Programme Manager of the Executive Secretariat of CILSS explained their role in knowledge sharing under the AI-CD and pointed out that further discussion on this is needed.
✔ The Lead Natural Resource Management Specialist of the World Bank (WB) pointed out that land degradation and climate change are linked to controlling migration and conflicts, and 80 million people may be forced to move to escape the impact of climate change by 2050.
✔ To share FAO’s experience in the fight against desertification and climate change, the Senior Forestry Officer of FAO highlighted how they have been involved in the GGWI programme. She insisted that the key solution to social, economic and environmental challenges remains the restoration of degraded land on a large scale. She also advocated the strengthening of partnership to create more synergies.
✔ The Coordinator for the GGWI at the African Union showed his strong will to work together with AI-CD, instead of having divided efforts, and considered the Forum a starting point of close collaboration.
✔ The Representative of ICARDA presented a new tool combining land degradation and land use planning process. Two options subsume from this approach, either to avoid land degradation or to counter-balance it and the process should be participatory.
✔ Mr. Arona Soumare, the Representative of the AfDB, informed that their Bank pays close attention to the Sahel region and consequently provides financial support to many projects carried out in this zone. For example, more than 6.5 billion dollars have been invested in the GGW Initiative. But for more efficiency, he urged financial partners working in the same field for the same purpose to collaborate and develop synergies.
(4) Synthesis and Way Forward
✔ The chairman of Session 3, the FP of Senegal, pointed out the necessity to work in synergy, develop a fruitful partnership and avoid the multiplication of activities.
✔ Facilitated by the FP of Senegal and the AI-CD Secretariat/JICA, the participants confirmed the way forward of each actor in accordance with AI-CD’s three pillars. Above all, member countries confirmed to continue their initiatives to promote AI-CD relevant activities, such as realisation of project ideas through access to finance and activities for knowledge sharing with support from the hub country, AI-CD Secretariat and ITFPs, and share their progress at the next and final forum in 2021.
✔ Closing remarks by MESD of Senegal and JICA brought the Forum to a close.