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New Push for Africa’s Great Green Wall Initiative: A New Innovation Hub to Share Knowledge and Strengthen Institutional Capacity

October 15, 2013

WASHINGTON, October 15, 2013 – The World Bank today signed a US$4.6 million grant agreement to establish a regional innovation hub for the World Bank Sahel and West Africa Program (SAWAP) that supports the Great Green Wall -- an African initiative that promotes sustainable land use practices across vulnerable dryland countries.

The new project dubbed BRICKS -- Building Resilience through Innovation, Communication and Knowledge Services – will provide operational, technical and knowledge services to 12 countries under SAWAP that are implementing or preparing large-scale investment operations. These countries include Benin, Burkina Faso, Chad, Ethiopia, Ghana, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sudan and Togo.

The grant is funded by the Global Environment Facility, and the agreements were signed in Washington by Colin Bruce, World Bank Director for Strategy and Operations in the Africa Region, and the leaders of the three implementing agencies that will implement the BRICKS project: Djimé Adoum, Executive Secretary of the Interstate Committee for Drought Control in the Sahel (CILSS); Khatim Kherraz, Executive Secretary of the Sahara and Sahel Observatory (OSS); and Aimé Nianogo, Director of the West and Central Africa Office of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN/PACO).

“The BRICKS project is a strategic effort designed to boost resilience in the Sahel and help countries and communities adapt to the challenges posed by a changing climate and rapidly degrading natural resource base,” said Jamal Saghir, World Bank Director for Sustainable Development in the Africa Region.  “It marks a major step forward for effective implementation of the World Bank and U.N. joint Sahel initiative for securing stability, peace and sustainable development.” 

The overall aim is to enhance the resilience of landscapes and livelihoods and in doing so, contribute to poverty reduction, food and water security and curb natural resource degradation. Six of SAWAP’s 12 country investment operations have already been approved by the Board of Executive Directors of the World Bank, and the remaining projects are planned to be delivered within the next six months.  The BRICKS project underpins a portfolio over US$1 billion. 

“The GEF is delighted to help countries of the Sahel and West Africa region move forward with the Great Green Wall Initiative,” said Naoko Ishii, GEF CEO. “This is a key contribution from the GEF to the  commitment to transformational change in the drylands. “The BRICKS project will support a regional platform to ensure coherence in approaches toward sustainable land management in the region. And the participation of CILSS, OSS, and IUCN will strenghen the opportunity for involving civil society and grassroots organizations in the overall program.”

The Great Green Wall initiative was launched by African Heads of State in 2007 and has evolved into a regional vision of sustainable landscapes that generate multiple economic and environmental benefits and help build the resilience of the Sahel, where over half the population lives on less than $1.25 per day, and nearly 70 percent depend on the economic services provided by land resources.

Sahelian countries face a complex set of development challenges. Flat economic growth, rising population, and rapid natural resource degradation are now increasingly affected by climate change,” said Dr. Adoum. “Through projects such as BRICKS we aim to build capacities of African institutions, strengthen country project implementation and secure robust development gains that not only help reduce poverty but also build the resilience and coping capacities of poor communities living in ecologically fragile, harsh environments.” 

BRICKS will catalyze South-South cooperation, marshal evidence for informed decision-making, and draw upon and connect the expertise of diverse communities of practice working in different sectors,” said Stephen Danyo, Project Leader and World Bank Senior Natural Resource Management Specialist in the Africa Region.  “We look forward to speedy project implementation in keeping with our mandate to provide cutting-edge knowledge solutions that benefit the people living in the region.” 

Through BRICKS, the CILSS, OSS and IUCN will convene and deliver operational services to the 12 country-led large-scale investment operations in the SAWAP portfolio, focusing on south-south learning on such topics as environmental change monitoring, geospatial analyses, strategic communication, biodiversity planning, and dissemination of best practices on land use planning and management.

BRICKS will also serve as an interface with other international partners that the Bank has engaged with as part of the TerrAfrica partnership and who are supporting the Great Green Wall, including the African Union Commission, Food and Agriculture Organization of the U.N., and the Global Mechanism of the U.N. Convention to Combat Desertification – all of whom were involved in the preparation of BRICKS to ensure strategic complementarities and to capture synergies.

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