The United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) has started a project to restore degraded landscapes and forest reserves in West Africa.
This is to promote sustainable agriculture activities and attain food security in some drought-prone countries in the sub-region.
The initiative, dubbed: “Sahel Opportunity Project”, is being implemented by the International Union for Conservation of Nations (IUCN) and sponsored by the Government of Italy.
It is benefitting three countries; Ghana, Burkina Faso, and Niger.
It will support these countries to implement interventions and strategies to meet the global commitments of establishing the Land Degradation Neutrality by 2030 and achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.
Land Degradation Neutrality is described by the UNCCD member states as the stability or stable increase in the amount and quality of land resources necessary to support ecosystem functions and services to enhance food security.
Speaking at the second advisory committee meeting of the project in Bolgatanga, Dr Birguy Lamizana, a Senior Programme Officer in charge of Global Mechanism, UNCCD, said the project aimed at restoring degraded lands, creating employment for the youth, and improving livelihoods of vulnerable communities.
According to the UNCCD report, between 1900 and 2019, about 2.7 billion people had been affected by drought with about 11.7 million deaths recorded.
In 2019 alone, more than 45 million people across Africa experienced food insecurity posed by drought.
Dr Lamizana said it had become necessary for member countries who were signatories to the UNCCD to commit to the Land Degradation Neutrality agenda to mitigate the impact of drought, especially in the Sahel region, through various interventions.
“The project really connects the countries but also helps them fulfill the mandate they have at the international level, in terms of the conventions and working at the grassroots level so that they can restore degraded lands,” she said.
It would also help protect water resources, improve food productivity to combat food insecurity, and bring economic returns to the communities.
Dr Jacques Somda, the Head of Programmes, IUCN, Burkina Faso, said destruction of landscapes and forest reserves in the Sahelian region posed a threat to livelihoods of vulnerable communities.
He advocated the need for countries to blend science, research and technical services of best agricultural practices and influence from civil society organisations to inform policy directions to empower local communities and transform lives.
Mr Asher Nkegbe, the UNCCD National Focal Point, said northern Ghana continued to experience land degradation posing a threat to food security.
He said the project would benefit four districts in northern Ghana, focusing on strategies to combat desertification, build resilient communities and improve livelihoods
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