First Great Green Wall conference

West African ministers came together to outline a course of action to accelerate progress on the Great Green Wall. The First Conference of the Great Green Wall for the Sahara and the Sahel Initiative was held from 2-7 May in Dakar, bringing together ministers from countries north and south of the Sahara as well as their development partners. Organised by the African Union, the high-level conference follows on the COP21 climate change conference, during which the international community pledged an additional USD 4 billion in support for the Great Green Wall over the next 5 years. African heads of state launched the initiative in 2007 with a view to transform the lives of millions of people by restoring the productivity of degraded lands across the Sahara and the Sahel. The initiative has since recorded significant progress: it is credited with the planting of more than 11 million trees in Senegal and the creation of 20 000 jobs in rural areas of Nigeria. At the Dakar conference, participants took stock of such results and sought to define a way forward to realise the full potential of the initiative. "We all understand that the Great Green Wall Initiative is more than just a green belt: it is a strategy for maximising the opportunities of the Sahara and Sahel region, through real involvement of communities and local governments", said Abdoulaye Balde, Senegal Minister of Environment and Sustainable Development. "Our survival now depends on our efforts and convictions."