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The Great Green Wall: A game-changing African-led initiative to restore Africa's degraded landscapes and transform millions of livesCredit:: Great Green Wall/ UNCCD

Restoration of degraded lands in Africa has economic benefits, as well as positive impacts on the environment, a new study, published in Nature Sustainability, has found.

Alisher Mirzabaev and colleagues from the Center for Development Research (ZEF) at the University of Bonn in Germany, analysed the costs and benefits of initiatives under the African Great Green Wall programme. This aims to restore 100 million hectares across 11 countries in the Sahel region in sub-Saharan Africa, which includes Mauritania, Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso, and Chad. A key aspect of the initiative is to plant trees in countries south of the Sahara Desert where land degradation threatens livelihoods and food security.

The researchers reported that while every dollar invested in land restoration under the programme yielded between US$1.1 and US$4.4, the amount spent on the projects could be recouped within 10 years, depending on the status of different countries and biomes.

Under the best scenario, US$44 billion is needed for the African Great Green Wall’s proposed land restoration activities. There are concerns, however, that violent conflicts in some countries within the project, could detract from the initiative by reducing access to proposed restoration sites, reducing the area from 27.9 million hectares to 14.1 million hectares.

Abebe Haile-Gabriel, assistant director-general and representative for Africa at the Food and Agriculture Organization for the United Nations, noted that the impact of land degradation in Africa is already having major negative effects on the continent’s economy.

“Despite our efforts, every year more forest disappears, costing the continent dearly,” Haile-Gabriel said.