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pasam grande muraille verte Niger agriculture
It is both an initiative for ecological restoration, and part of the fight against hunger and food insecurity in Africa. In existence since 2007, the Great Green Wall is above all part of an immense effort to reclaim land lost to desertification. In the wake of the World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought, we review the Great Green Wall’s objectives and the actors involved.

1What are the objectives of the Great Green Wall?

A flagship program supported by the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification, the Great Green Wall (GGW) initiative aims to restore 100 million hectares of degraded land in Africa by 2030, along an 8,000-kilometer strip south of the Sahara from Senegal to Djibouti, stretching across Mauritania, Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger, Nigeria, Chad, Sudan, Eritrea and Ethiopia.

Many people across sub-Saharan Africa suffer from food insecurity as a result of land degradation due to human activity, climate change, droughts, loss of biodiversity, and a lack of decent rural jobs. Millions face a major food crisis for the second year in a row according to the Food Crisis Prevention Network.


To reverse the trend, the Green Wall initiative is increasing the number of projects that aim to preserve water resources and increase vegetation. They will also facilitate access to renewable energy, support productive and sustainable agriculture and encourage economic and institutional measures for sustainable development.These initiatives should also make it possible to capture and store 250 million tons of CO2 in vegetation by 2030 and create 10 million green jobs, while contributing to food security in one of the world's most malnutrition-ridden regions. Protecting biological diversity and adapting populations and ecosystems to climate change are also central issues.

2 Who is behind the Great Green Wall initiative?

This pan-African initiative was officially started in 2007 by the African Union. At the time, it provided for the continuous planting of trees along a 15 km wide strip from Dakar to Djibouti. In 2013, the program was broadened into one of sustainable ecosystem management to improve the livelihoods of rural communities affected by land degradation.

Since the initiative was launched, nearly 20 million hectares of land have been restored and 350,000 jobs created, thanks to the mobilization of more than $3 billion (2.5 billion euros) by international partners.

The One Planet Summit held in Paris on January 11, 2021 highlighted the importance of accelerating its implementation to improve the living conditions of the rural communities of the Sahelian strip. The various partners have pledged to mobilize nearly €14 billion in additional international financing in the 11 countries involved by 2025. This represents about 30% of the funding needed to achieve the initiative's ambitions by 2030. The GGW is now backed by a number of development stakeholders, including the World Bank, the European Union, and the Agence Française de Développement.

3 What role does AFD play in this initiative?

AFD has been financing projects that contribute to the GGW's objectives for many years. In particular, they promote agro-ecology and sustainable agriculture in close collaboration with research. The projects contribute to the management of natural resources, to support pastoralism – an essential economic activity in the Sahel – and to promote renewable energy.

For more than twenty years in Chad, AFD has supported the installation water points for farmers and nomadic herders, in an effort to preserve strategic biodiversity areas. Eight projects have been financed for a total investment of €50 million. 

As part of the DECLIC 2 Hodhs project in Mauritania, AFD is financing the construction of manual firebreaks to fight bushfires, the rehabilitation of water points for livestock and land development to increase grain production.

In Zinder and Diffa, two regions of Niger heavily impacted by climate change, the Pasam program aims to reconcile environmental restoration with improved food security, particularly through restoring and building boreholes and pastoral wells, protecting grazing areas and setting up systems to respond to food crises.

"In the projects it finances, AFD pays particular attention to natural resource governance,” says Sandra Rullière, project team leader in AFD's Agriculture, Rural Development and Biodiversity Division. “We support local stakeholders in planning investments and defining the rules for the use and management of natural resources, from ponds and pastoral areas, to agriculture and forests.” 

AFD is also the driving force behind the Climate Resilience for Rural Africa program, which aims to strengthen the adaptation of rural areas to climate change, promote agro-ecology and manage natural resources sustainably in the Sahel, Gulf of Guinea, and Horn of Africa. Fifteen countries are involved. AFD will commit close to €600 million over the period 2021-2025.

Further reading