Taking into consideration the realities of African communities while designing dry land restoration projects for the continent is what experts have described as key to a successful “regreening” process.
Speaking in separate sessions during the Digital Landscape Forum recently, they held that only an inclusive module where youths, who constitute the majority of the population and women with their distinctive roles in communities, will drive forward the restoration success story.
“This is no longer the time for a “copy and paste” approach to land restoration. Modules written in the West are applied in Africa without considering the social, environmental, ecological and even economic differences of the two societies.
We need to bear in mind that what works for Europe, for example, must not necessarily work for Africa. Besides, dryland restoration in Africa needs to bring everyone on board, from the women to the youths in the local communities.
No one should be left out. We need a holistic approach to tackle this,” says Hon. Adjany Costa, Adviser for Environmental Affairs to the President of the Republic of Angola.
She was the main speaker during one of the sessions on ‘Decolonising Restoration in Africa’. Hon. Costa observed that some dry land restoration initiatives have failed in Africa due to the made-believe stereotypes of the history of colonisation. To her, the population of some of these communities were excluded from the exercise while foreign modules applied.
Women are said to carry out 50 percent of agricultural endeavours and produce 60 percent of food on the continent.
Experts are, thus, confident that if the right policies to boost ecosystem restoration are put in place and the women empowered, African drylands will not only flourish again but sustain livelihoods.
According to Sharon IKEAZOR, Nigerian Minister of State for Environment, support from all sectors from policy makers, scientific community, private sector, indigenous people, pastoralists and more, is needed for a breakthrough.
“We need policies that will boost ecosystem restoration among women and youth. We need to build more “eco-preneurs” to sustainably manage our biodiversity and ecosystem and I am confident the women and youth can do this”. Cecile Bibiane NDJEBET, President of the RECACOF, is conscious of how costly restoration initiatives can be. She says women need improved tenure on land matters to better perform.
As she puts it, women need to be at the centre of decision making in this regard so that restoration doesn’t imply planting trees but transforming livelihoods.
Focusing on ‘creating synergies between sectors and scales’ young Nigerian Climate activist ADENIKE ALADOSU of ILead Climate was emphatic that youths need a platform to make their voices heard on restoration matters on the continent.
“Our landscapes define our future and that future starts now. We have the numerical strength we just need the platforms to address these issues and leverage our innovative ideas”.
Sustainability of Dryland Restoration
Tackling challenges caused by limited technical knowledge in ecosystem restoration so that initiatives to regreen drylands in Africa are passed on from one generation to the next is a major preoccupation for specialists in this domain.
Involving the local communities as key actors in the monitoring process is another factor to consider. “Restoration is life. If we don’t fully embrace it and make it sustainable, we are exposing future generations.
The land is being restored for them, so there is no way you can ignore them in the planning and transformation of the ecosystem,” says Charles Karangwa, International Union for the Conservation of Nature.
According to him, restoring the balance between people, animals and the environment is the only way to ensure sustainability. Seyni NAFO, Technical Coordinator – Africa Adaptation Initiatives, adds that restoration must be grounded, scaled from top to bottom and should be an entire country’s initiative and not an affair of a few.
“It has to be owned and driven by the people with the interest of the people at the fore because they are custodians of the basic potentials needed to unlock restoration effort”, he further explains.
They equally harped on the need to track the restoration progress, “Monitoring is important to measure the path covered in restoration because land restoration is a process” Salima Mahamoudou, Research associate at World Research Institute.
To Tony RINAUDO Principal Natural Resource advisor at world Vision, 90 percent of success in restoration is “regreening” mindsets. Tabi Joda Executive Director of GreenAid, corroborated this point.
The two-day online conference from 2-3 June with 47 sessions, over 250 speakers and 600+ attendees has driven home the message that Drylands in African can be restored especially as the AFR100 initiative and the Greet Green Wall are taking up steam across the continent.