Natural resources and ecosystems that are critical for the livelihoods and wellbeing of the world’s poorest are threatened by degradation and over-use. But forward thinking and innovative approaches can help revitalize and boost the resilience of these resources and ecosystems, and the people who rely on them. Paula Caballero, Senior Director for the World Bank’s Environment and Natural Resources Global Practice witnessed this first-hand in Mali, Burkina Faso, Tanzania, and Ethiopia.
“Africa’s story is often one of extraordinary endeavour and human perseverance in the face of severe challenges,” said Ms. Caballero, Senior Director, after her visit to Sub-Saharan Africa. “In all the countries I visited, the link was clear between natural resources management and growth—not only today, but also for tomorrow.”
Changing Lives along the Great Green Wall
Caballero visited sections of the $1.1 Billion Bank-funded program supporting African countries’ Great Green Wall Initiative, which has had a positive impact on local communities and farmers in Burkina, Ethiopia, Mali and 9 other countries. Developed under TerrAfrica, the program aims to improve the resilience of lands and its people.
In Mali, where drought is a fact of life, 8% of the GDP is lost every year due to land degradation. Over the past few years, the Bank has supported programs to roll back the desertification processes and enhance the resilience of communities to climate change. Recently, the Government of Mali asked for Bank assistance to rehabilitate and protect the inner Niger River Delta—a vast wetland that is fragile and especially vulnerable to climate change and degradation. The Delta is vital to the livelihoods of millions of people in Mali, and 8 other countries that surround it. 40% of Mali’s livestock—over 2 million cows and 4 million goats and sheep—migrate to the Delta region during the scorching dry months.
In Burkina Faso, an inspiring visit with Yacouba Sawadogo—known as The Man Who Stopped the Desert—showed that drylands are not inevitable. Sawadogo, a farmer from one of the poorest countries on earth, achieved what many experts dream of: Halting the desert. In just 20 years, he converted a completely barren area into a thriving 64-acre forest with 87 species of trees. “I started replanting this forest because I wanted to cure the land and cure the people,” said Sawadogo. “Now, I produce more than I can eat. I will sell the surplus and use the medicinal plants to cure people. What I have done and continue doing is for the next generation and for the entire humanity.”