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AfDB Committed to Fighting Desertification and Land Degradation in Africa

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The African Development Bank joined the international community in celebrating the World Day to Combat Desertification on Monday, June 17. This year’s theme is drought and water scarcity. African drylands are particularly vulnerable to water scarcity. While each person needs at least 2,000 cubic metres of water for human well-being and sustainable development every year, on average, people in the drylands have access to only 1,300 cubic metres. The goal of the 2013 World Day to Combat Desertification is to create awareness about the risks of drought and water scarcity in the drylands and beyond, calling attention to the importance of sustaining healthy soils as part of the post Rio+20 agenda.

This year’s focus is part of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) campaign “Don’t let our future dry up”, which calls for everyone to take action to promote preparedness and resilience to water scarcity, desertification and drought. The Convention addresses specifically the arid, semi-arid and dry sub-humid areas, known as the drylands, where some of the most vulnerable ecosystems and peoples can be found.

The Bank, which is hosting the Regional Coordination Unit for Africa of the UNCCD, is assisting its regional member countries (RMCs) in combatting desertification and land degradation. The project to protect the Niger Basin from silt accumulation (“Projet de lutte contre l’ensablement du bassin du Niger”), which was implemented under the coordination of the Niger Basin Agency, has been one of the success stories in this area. Its results include soil stabilization on 38,100 hectares in Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger. The project has included the development of participative approaches for desertification control, and capacity building in degraded land restoration for 100,000 producers. A follow-up project “Integrated development and adaptation to climate change in the Niger Basin” is currently being prepared for an estimated budget of 150 million Units of Account (US $224.82 million). This initiative will build upon the results of the initial Niger Basin project with a focus on increasing the resilience to climate change of the local populations, through improved water management and the development of sustainable watershed management practices.

Other important projects include the Africa Drought Resilience Programs for the Horn of Africa and Sahel. These are two major multi-donor programs which aim at building resilience in two drought-prone regions of Africa – the Horn of Africa and the Sahel. They cover 21 RMCs – eight in the Horn of Africa and 13 in the Sahel. The programs represent a shift from emergency relief to medium- and long-term perspectives in addressing food security. They recognize the dependence on natural resources for most of the rural population, which are predominantly agro-pastoralists.

Phase I of the program for the Horn of Africa was approved by the AfDB Board in December 2012 for 83.12 million UA (US $124.58 million). The expected impacts include improved management of natural resources, improved livestock market infrastructure and animal health system, improved agro-pastoralists livelihoods and enhanced regional cooperation for the management of trans-boundary natural resources. Phase II of the program is currently being designed and is expected to include countries that were not included in Phase I. In West Africa, building drought resilience is the most economical option of intervention to support communities in meeting their basic needs and guaranteeing their dignity. The Bank, in collaboration with the Permanent Inter-State Committee for Drought Control in the Sahel (CILSS) and its other partners and 13 member countries, initiated in April 2012 the formulation of a regional program of resilience to food and nutrition insecurity for the Sahel region. It will run in four phases of five years each, and will address value-chain development and agricultural infrastructure development.