“The two documents are still subject to changes proposed possibly by the high level segment meeting starting on Thursday, 18 August, when the relevant portfolio ministers deliberate on them for final approval,” said Teo Nghitila, Namibia’s Environmental Commissioner.
The conference declared that synergies should be increased to address drought, land degradation and desertification by implementing the framework. “We declare commitment to develop a binding Protocol on Drought Risk Management and Enhancing Resilience for Africa for adoption by the African Union Heads of State,” the draft declaration states.
Within one year, a core team is to be set up to “operationalise the strategy” and a continental trust fund for Africa is to be up and running within three years, after the AU Heads of State adopt the Windhoek Declaration and the Strategic Framework.
In both draft documents the youth and vulnerable groups like the disabled, indigenous minorities and elderly people are to be empowered to ensure that they can deal with drought events.
The technical segment of the African Drought Conference not only provided a platform for detailed deliberations, but also created an opportunity for delegates to learn about various success stories in different regions on the continent. In a side event, Francis Tapsoba of the FAO shared about the Great Green Wall (GGW) initiative for the Sahel-Saharan region to combat desertification.
The GGW initiative aims to green a strip of land 15 km wide and 7 100 km long across Africa from Dakar in the west to Djibouti in the East by planting trees, among others. It is an African-driven initiative backed by the African Union.
The GGW seeks to improve the resilience of human and natural systems in the Sahel-Saharan zone to drought, desertification, climate change and loss of biodiversity through sound ecosystems management, sustainable development of land resources, protection of rural heritage and improvement of the living conditions and livelihoods of populations living in these areas.
In 2010, more than 10 countries of the Sahel-Saharan zone signed a convention in Ndjamena, Chad, to create the Great Green Wall Agency and appoint a secretariat. Since then over 20 African countries like Egypt, Ethiopia, the Gambia and Mali are involved in the GGW initiative.
The Global Environmental Facility (GEF) supports the cross-border projects and has granted about US$100 million to the countries participating in the GGW. Positive results are reported particularly from the Zinder Region in Niger, where joint efforts with the rural population increased tree density. Crop yield has increased, soil fertility improved, soil erosion could be reduced and biodiversity was improved.
Some 200 million of the poorest people in Africa are food insecure, many through their dependence on climate sensitive livelihoods – predominantly rain-fed agriculture and extensive livestock. Their vulnerability is expected to increase with climate change due to anticipated increases in climate variability (El Niño, El Niña,) more droughts and floods). Similar changes are anticipated in crop and pastoral production, seasonal water resources, malaria prevalence, crop pests and other climate sensitive aspects of rural life.
The African Drought Conference, which ends today, is organised by the Namibian government in collaboration with the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD).
The technical level segment of the conference ended on Wednesday afternoon, with the main focus on the draft ‘Strategic Framework for Drought Management and Enhancing Resilience to Drought in Africa’ (white paper) and the Windhoek Declaration.
The ‘Windhoek Declaration of Drought Resilience’ and the framework will be adopted at ministerial level at the end of the conference.