The farmers who turned a desert into a forest


In a semi-arid region of Bahia, two farmers have managed to create a forest from their depleted soil that was on the verge of desertification.

The Swiss Ernst Gotsch and his “student” Nelson Araújo Filho have implemented an agroforestry system that reproduces the functioning of the original ecosystems in each region.

This method, which has been adopted in various regions of Brazil and the world, combines food production with the restoration of vegetation, attracts wild animals and helps to reverse desertification.

Gotsch, who immigrated to Brazil in the 1980s, turned his 500-hectare property in Piraí do Norte (BA), which used to be very degraded, an example of recovery, leading many people and even multinational companies to go to Gotsch to help with their plantations.

Araújo did the same on 1.8 hectares, an area equivalent to two soccer fields.

In this video, the BBC News Brasil reporter João Fellet met with the two in the semi-arid region to show how, in Gotsch’s words, it is possible to introduce forests and “plant water” on lands in the process of desertification.

  • Research, script and presentation: João Fellet
  • Video and camera editing: Felix Lima
  • Coordination: Adriano Brito
  • Direction: Silvia Salek

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Los agricultores que convirtieron un desierto en un bosque

Ernst Gotsch, quien emigró a Brasil en la década de 1980, convirtió su propiedad de 500 hectáreas en Piraí do Norte (BA), que solía estar muy degradada, en un ejemplo de recuperación.

Back in the spotlight: Africa’s Great Green Wall

Issued on: 23/11/2021 –

See also :


EU, Peres Center, Frontier RNG hold roundtable on desertification

The topic in question is especially relevant, as desertification has worsened in recent years due to climate change reducing rainfall and making air hotter and drier.


The European Union, the Peres Center for Peace and Innovation, and Frontier RNG have moved forward with a series of roundtable discussions about climate innovation, this time discussing food security amid desertification.The roundtable was held over Zoom and included experts from the EU, Egypt, Israel, the Palestinian Authority, the United Arab Emirates, Jordan, Germany and Morocco. Among the experts were academics, government officials and members of the private sector.The topic in question is especially relevant, as desertification has worsened in recent years due to climate change, reducing rainfall and making air hotter and drier.

So how can the world tackle desertification? As the panel discussed, there are two main steps: prevention and preparation. The first step deals with stopping climate change as much as possible right now, while the second deals with preparing for the future while taking into account society, nations and future generations.

But doing this would require partnerships, such as with the EU, Peres Center and Frontier RNG. “We strongly believe that the EU can play a significant geopolitical role in steering discussions and advancing peaceful and prosperous relationships in this region through these kinds of initiatives,” EU Ambassador to Israel Dimiter Tzantchev said in a statement. “Working together on the global climate agenda is in everybody’s interest, particularly in a region where the climate change consequences are more severe than in other regions,” he said. “That’s why we are glad to partner with the Peres Center on this science diplomacy initiative, bringing together experts from different countries to exchange their views and best practices, with the possibility of establishing new cross-border partnerships.”

“There is no doubt that the climate crisis is the greatest existential challenge facing the world today – and we are honored to be partnering up with the EU to address these pressing environmental issues,” Peres Center director-general Efrat Duvdevani said. “Our role is threefold: to raise awareness, especially among the youth; to join hands with regional and international partners in the face of this crisis; and to encourage innovation and startups to tackle these challenges,” she said.”The Peres Center is doing all it can in this regard, to bring these environmental challenges to the forefront of people’s minds and to harness Israel’s tech ecosystem to address these issues,” Duvdevani said. “Today, leaders, thinkers and experts from all over the region came together to lay the groundwork for cross-border partnerships to lead the way to a better tomorrow for the next generation through innovation and cooperation.”This is the second of four roundtable talks held in this series.The first talk, held in June, centered on “Climate Change in the Red Sea Ecosystem.”

Burundi: Protection of Northern Lakes already bearing fruit

By Rédaction Africanews

with AFP Last updated: 14/11/2021 –

A few years ago, the northern region of Burundi, particularly Kirundo province, was threatened by desertification. This also threatened the northern lakes, including Lake Rweru. Today, thanks to efforts to protect its buffer zone, fish production is on the rise. And this creates jobs and contributes to community development.

A fisherman on Lake Rweru , Pascal Nkurunziza explained how well production has increased since awareness creation begun. “Before the protection of the lake, production was low. Now it is increasing. The administrator and the governor have raised awareness to protect this lake, and production is increasing.

With this increase in production, investors have created work on the lake. This provides a living for families.

Daniel Minani explained how beneficial fishing has been to his livelihood. “Fishing is our job. Our bosses give us work. That’s what makes us live. We spend days on the lake, and when we come back, they pay us money.

The administration says the increase is real and beneficial.

“There is the project to protect the lakes by separating the buffer zone from the cultivable part. This has increased the production of fish because they find food, where they multiply. This increase has contributed not only to the feeding of this population but also to community development. Because this community collects a lot of taxes, about two million FBU per week in fish marketing taxes. Albert Hatungimana, Governor of Kirundo stated.

Northern Burundi has a total of six lakes, including Lake Rweru.

Africa’s ‘Great Green Wall’ shifts focus to hold off desert

By Carley Petesch | APNovember 13, 2021  –

EBEMER, Senegal — The idea was striking in its ambition: African countries aimed to plant trees in a nearly 5,000-mile line spanning the entire continent, creating a natural barrier to hold back the Sahara Desert as climate change swept the sands south.

The project called the Great Green Wall began in 2007 with a vision for the trees to extend like a belt across the vast Sahel region, from Senegal in the west to Djibouti in the east, by 2030. But as temperatures rose and rainfall diminished, millions of the planted trees died.

Efforts to rein in the desert continue in Senegal on a smaller scale. On the western end of the planned wall, Ibrahima Fall walks under the cool shade of dozens of lime trees, watering them with a hose as yellow chicks scurry around his feet. Just beyond the green orchard and a village is a desolate, arid landscape.

The citrus crop provides a haven from the heat and sand that surround it. Outside the low village walls, winds whip sand into the air, inviting desertification, a process that wrings the life out of fertile soil and changes it into desert, often because of drought or deforestation.

Only 4% of the Great Green Wall’s original goal has been met, and an estimated $43 billion would be needed to achieve the rest. With prospects for completing the barrier on time dim, organizers have shifted their focus from planting a wall of trees to trying a mosaic of smaller, more durable projects to stop desertification, including community-based efforts designed to improve lives and help the most vulnerable agriculture.

“The project that doesn’t involve the community is doomed to failure,” says Diegane Ndiaye, who is part of a group known as SOS Sahel, which has helped with planting programs in Senegal and other countries across the Sahel, a broad geographic zone between the Sahara in the north and the more temperate African savanna to the south.

The programs focus on restoring the environment and reviving economic activity in Sahel villages, Ndiaye said.

With the loss of rainfall and the advance of the desert, “this strip of the Sahel is a very vulnerable area to climate change,” he said. “So we should have projects that are likely to rebuild the environment … fix the dunes and also help protect the vegetable-growing area.”

On Senegal’s Atlantic Coast, filao trees stretch in a band from Dakar up to the northern city of St. Louis, forming a curtain that protects the beginning of Green Wall region, which also grows more than 80% of Senegal’s vegetables. The sky-reaching branches tame the winds tearing in from the ocean.

This reforestation project started in the 1970s, but many trees were cut down for wood, and work to replant them has been more recent. More trees are also planted in front of dunes near the water in an effort to protect the dunes and keep them from moving.

“We have had a lot of reforestation programs that today have not yielded much because it is often done with great fanfare” and not with good planning, Ndiaye said.

Fall, the 75-year-old chief of his village, planted the citrus orchard in 2016, putting the trees near a water source on his land. His is one of 800 small orchards in six communes of a town called Kebemer.

“We once planted peanuts and that wasn’t enough,” he said in the local Wolof language. “This orchard brings income that allows me to take care of my family.” He said he can produce 20 to 40 kilos of limes per week during peak season.

Enriched by the trees, the soil has also grown tomatoes and onions.

The village has used profits from the orchard to replace straw homes with cement brick structures and to buy more sheep, goats and chickens. It also added a solar panel to help pump water from a communal well, sparing villagers from having to pay more for water in the desert.

African Development Bank President Akinwumi A. Adesina spoke about the importance of stopping desertification in the Sahel during the United Nations’ COP26 global climate conference. He announced a commitment from the bank to mobilize $6.5 billion toward the Great Green Wall by 2025.

The newest projects in Senegal are circular gardens known in the Wolof language as “tolou keur.” They feature a variety of trees that are planted strategically so that the larger ones protect the more vulnerable.

The gardens’ curving rows hold moringa, sage, papaya and mango trees that are resistant to dry climates. They are planted so their roots grow inward to improve water retention in the plot.

Senegal has 20 total circular gardens, each one adapted to the soil, culture and needs of individual communities so they can grow much of what they need. Early indications are that they are thriving in the Great Green Wall region. Solar energy helps provide electricity for irrigation.

Jonathan Pershing, deputy special envoy for climate at the U.S. State Department, visited Senegal as part of an Africa trip last month, saying the U.S. wants to partner with African nations to fight climate change.

“The desert is encroaching. You see it really moving south,” Pershing said.

In terms of the Great Green Wall project, he said, “I don’t think that very many people thought it was going to go very far,” including himself. But there are indications of progress, as seen in the community projects.

“It has a global benefit, and people are prepared to make those kinds of long-term investments through their children and their families, which I think is a hallmark of what we need to do in other climate arenas.”

Desertification intensifies: will management policies be revised?

By Faranak Bakhtiari -November 14, 2021  –

TEHRAN – While Iran is facing an intensified trend of desertification, desert greening operations should be carried out across more than one million hectares of land according to the Sixth National Development Plan (2016-2021), but the progress has been much less than projected.

In the meantime, experts have proposed solutions such as refraining from improper dam construction and reforming water and soil management policies.

Parviz Garshasbi, deputy head of the Forests, Rangelands, and Watershed Management Organization (FRWMO), said that according to the Sixth National Development Plan, desert greening measures were to be carried out in 1,140,000 hectares of the country’s deserts, but so far, the operations have been conducted in only 350,000 hectares of deserts.

An estimated 2 billion tons of soil is lost due to erosion in Iran annually, it takes an average of 400 years to form a centimeter of soil on the planet, he said, adding, in Iran’s climate, this time is between 700 and 1000 years.

Wind erosion brings an annual economic and environmental damage of 30 trillion rials (nearly $714 million at the official rate of 42,000 rials) to the country, according to the latest studies in 2019.

“Over 88 percent of the country can be affected by desertification. According to the 2018 survey, 37 million hectares of the country are exposed to land degradation and 23 percent of the total area is subject to severe degradation in terms of reduction of vegetation and soil fertility.

Also, 22 provinces of the country with an area of 29.5 million hectares in 187 regions are affected by wind erosion and there are 237 crisis centers with an area of 13.9 million hectares and due to the influx of annual quicksand to the railway infrastructure, roads, agriculture, and other parts are damaged,” he explained.

Excessive dam construction

Garshasbi said that the crisis is caused by the imbalance of available water and consumption and the lack of a comprehensive program in the field of sustainable management of water and soil resources and the lack of approaches based on promoting resilience and adaptation to water scarcity.

If there is no change in current policies and we continue the expansion of dams, increasing the area under cultivation and lack of water management in the country, in the near future we will not only move towards desertification but also large and productive plains of the country will be out of cycle, he highlighted.

“Rapid slope and human factors, especially over-exploitation of land in pastures, forests, agricultural lands, and deserts are other causes of high soil erosion in Iran.

Unfortunately, over the past decade, about one million hectares of sand and dust hotspots have been added to the country’s desert due to the wrong policies in the field of water and agricultural resource management and in total due to climate change and human intervention,” he explained.

Masoud Mansour, head of the FRWMO, referring to the development of a policy for the conservation and management of rehabilitated areas, said that policies were approved and communicated to all provinces. Since then, management based on the participation of locals through desert ecotourism, camel breeding, wind, and solar power plants is on agenda.

According to him, currently, the methods of rehabilitating desert areas are based on the pattern of prevention of factors of destruction and implementation of projects such as grazing control, development of compatible native species, and use of wastewater management.

Measures against wind erosion depend on a series of external factors so that vegetation and sensitive ecosystems in desert areas will be the first victims of inefficiency and improper performance of water and soil resources management.


Africa’s “Green Wall” also makes economic sense

However, a study by the University of Bonn shows that this does not apply to all regions in the Sahel

Fifteen years ago, the African Union decided on an ambitious program: degraded ecosystems in parts of the Sahel are to be successively restored in order to secure food for the people living there and to protect the soil against further degradation. At the same time, the African Great Green Wall is an important contribution to combating climate change. A study by the University of Bonn and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) now shows that it also makes economic sense – although not everywhere in the Sahel. The analysis also shows how much violent conflicts threaten the success of the program. It has now been published in the journal Nature Sustainability.

Sahel region – A typical village of the Sahel region in Niger (© FAO,

The Sahel extends south of the Sahara from Senegal in the west to Ethiopia in the east of Africa. Vast areas of the formerly fertile region are now virtually uncultivated. Reasons are droughts, poor agricultural cultivation methods as well as overuse due to the growing demand for food and firewood.

The “Great Green Wall” initiative aims to compensate for and reverse this loss through mass planting of native trees and grasses. 100 million hectares of land are to be restored in this way. So far, however, this ambitious goal is very far from being achieved – partly because of a lack of financial resources.

However, this could change in the future: Earlier this year, various donor countries pledged nearly $15 billion to the project at the One Planet Summit for Biodiversity. “In order to use these funds efficiently, we now have to ask ourselves where and for which measures they should be used most sensibly,” emphasizes Dr. Alisher Mirzabaev of the Center for Development Research (ZEF) at the University of Bonn.

Every dollar invested yields a 20-cent of net returns

The agricultural economist has led a study that provides an answer. The researchers divided the Sahel region into 40 million plots of 25 hectares each. For each of these, they then analyzed which land restoration measures would be possible and how much they would cost. They compared this calculation with the economic benefits that could be achieved.

“On the one hand, these include the so-called provisioning services,” explains Mirzabaev: “These are the things that are produced by the ecosystems: Food and drinking water, raw materials such as wood or medicinal plants.” There are also other effects, such as a better climate, less wind erosion or pollinators services, which in turn increase the farmers’ crop yields. They, too, can have a price tag attached to them today.

The results show that building the “Green Wall” is also economically worthwhile. But how much depends on a number of factors. As a rule, reforestation would be the most advantageous economically and ecologically. But it takes decades for a few hundred seedlings to grow into a forest. The investment therefore only bears fruit in the very long term.

The situation is different when degraded areas are converted into farmland. “Ideally, the first harvest is then possible after just one year,” says Mirzabaev. Cropland restoration can thus pay for itself comparatively quickly, with many poor smallholder farmers also preferring quick returns from their restoration activities. However, the profits that can be achieved as a result are significantly lower, as are the environmental effects.

“In our analysis, we work with different scenarios, some of which are aimed more at short-term benefits, while others are more long-term,” explains the agricultural economist, who is a member of the Transdisciplinary Research Area “Sustainable Futures” at the University of Bonn. The so-called baseline scenario, for example, includes a mixture of both short-term and long-term returns. In it, every dollar spent yields an average net return of 20 cents.

Half of the profitable regions are too uncertain for action

However, there are huge regional variations in this. The most positive economic balance is for parts of Nigeria, Eritrea and Ethiopia. This is where the investment in the “Green Wall” is most worthwhile. To finance all the proposed measures in this scenario, a sum of 44 billion U.S. dollars would be needed. This would allow 28 million hectares of land to be restored.

However, the analysis also shows that this will probably only work in theory. The reason is that, due to violent conflicts, many of the regions where it would make sense to build the Green Wall are simply too unsafe for such measures. “If we take out these areas, we are left with just 14 million hectares,” Mirzabaev points out. “This shows how much such disputes not only cause direct human suffering, but also prevent positive development of the affected regions.”

The study was funded by the European Union.

Publication: A. Mirzabaev, M. Sacande, F. Motlagh, A. Shyrokaya und A. Martucci: Economic efficiency and targeting of the African Great Green Wall; Nature Sustainability; DOI: 10.1038/s41893-021-00801-8 for restorationPreparation for restoration – of the “Green Wall” in Burkina Faso© FAO, Sahel villageA Sahel village – near Timbuktu on the edge of the “Green Wall”© FAO,

PD Dr. Alisher Mirzabaev
Center for Development Research at the University of Bonn
Phone: +49-228-731915

Gov. Matawalle to plant 1 million trees to fight desertification, soil erosion

Zamfara State Government says plans has been concluded to plant one Million arable trees in partnership with Nigeria’s Great Green Wall aimed at fighting desertification and soil erosion in the state

Zamfara is one of the frontline desert states in Nigeria with its fifty per cent landmark under threat of desertification and soil degradation occasioned by annual flooding during rainy seasons

Governor Bello Matawalle stated this in Glasgow, United Kingdom when he hosted the Zamfara State Side Event at the ongoing COP 26

A Press statement signed by the Director General Media and Communication to the Governor Yusuf Idris said the Matawalle’s led administration ventured into the scheme to save the largely agrarian Communities that are predominantly farmers of millet, guinea-corn, maize, rice and other crops to guarantee food security in the Country

Mr. Matawalle lamented that climate change which is a major driving force to armed banditry bedeviling the state was the resultant effect of the taking over of pastoralists’ grazing reserves, water and resting points, noting that the state government is now chanelling resources to address all these including the establishment of modern pastoral settlements known as RUGA, where herders will be settled in one place with all required amenities provided for them and their animals and thereby stopping skirmishes between farmers and herders which gave birth to armed banditry in the first place.

The Zamfara Governor insist that the state government under his watch has already keyed into the World Bank funded Agro-Climatic Resilience in Semi-Arid Landscapes programme, which has desertification control and landscape management as one of its components

According to him, his administration is doing its best to protect natural habitats, protect and restore the eco-system and reclaim the land by building defences including resilient infrastructure and agriculture, the state government requires collaboration with partners to raise the finances that will strategically support the project

Zamfara State’s delegates at the event Includes the Secretary to the State Government, Kabiru Balarabe, Commissioners of Environment, Dr Nura Isah Gusau, Faika Ahmad of Humanitarian Affairs and Disaster Management and the Special Adviser to the Governor on Bilateral Affairs, Dr Suleiman Shu’aibu Shinkafi .

AfDB highlights importance of stopping desertification and turning Sahel green

Adesina spoke at a high-level side event held on Monday 1 November, on the Great Green Wall initiative during the ongoing UN global climate conference, COP26, in Glasgow, Scotland.

AfDB | Abidjan | Updated: 02-11-2021 –

African Development Bank President Dr Akinwumi A. Adesina has highlighted the importance of stopping desertification in Africa’s Sahel and turning the region.

Adesina spoke at a high-level side event held on Monday 1 November, on the Great Green Wall initiative during the ongoing UN global climate conference, COP26, in Glasgow, Scotland. The event was co-hosted by His Royal Highness Prince of Wales, French President Emmanuel Macron and Mauritanian President Ould Ghazaouni.

The African Development Bank is a major partner in this bold project, which involves building an 8,000 km long and 15 km wide swathe of trees, grasslands, vegetation and plants across the Sahel. It will restore degraded land and help inhabitants of the Sahel produce food, create jobs and promote peace. Yesterday’s gathering focused on marshalling efforts to scale up the implementation of the project as a critical nature-based solution to climate change in Africa.

Adesina thanked HRH The Prince of Wales for what he said was the Prince’s global leadership and lifetime commitment to safeguarding nature and the environment.

He also commended French President Emmanuel Macron for his passion and leadership on climate issues, especially in Africa, and for appointing him as a Global Champion for the Great Green Wall initiative, to help mobilize financing for it. He said the French president’s leadership in convening the One Planet Summit for Biodiversity earlier in the year and his call for commitment to accelerate actions had been a turning point for the Great Green Wall for the Sahel and the Sahara.

The African Development Bank chief applauded the leadership and commitment of all African heads of state on the Great Green Wall.

“The Great Green Wall is not a wall that divides. It is a wall that unites — uniting livelihoods, resilience, and adaptation against climate change,” Adesina said.

Adesina said desertification, obliteration by sand dunes, and droughts, had continued to pummel vast areas of the Sahara and the Sahel. “Life is unbearable, so people migrate, populations are displaced, conflicts are aggravated as previously co-existing communities of farmers and herders engage in relentless battles over declining communal resources,” he explained. He said that for the millions of people in the region, it was either they adapt or see the disappearance of the Sahel.

The African Development Bank has committed to mobilize $6.5 billion towards the Great Green Wall initiative, by 2025. This is 45% of the $14.5 billion that development partners committed to the initiative at the One Planet Summit in Paris. It also represents 20% of the $33 billion needed to deliver on the 10-year priority investments of the Great Green Wall by 2030.

The Bank chief said his institution was delivering on its commitment through several projects, including $2 billion for the Desert-to-Power program to deliver universal access to electricity in the G5 Sahel countries (Niger, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, Burkina Faso) via solar power. The Green Climate Fund recently approved $150 million for this project. The Bank is also mobilizing $2 billion for digital climate advisory services, as part of the African Adaptation Acceleration Program. And yet a third is $1 billion from the Bank’s Technologies for African Agricultural Transformation to deploy climate-resilient technologies at scale to millions of farmers.

One of the harshest deserts in the world may help us avoid climate famine


Climate change: Heat waves become more intenseFor almost three decades, world leaders have been meeting to try to curb global warming. But in that time Earth has become a much hotter and deadlier planet, and heat waves fueled by climate change are becoming increasingly frequent and intense. (Nov. 3)AP

A new study on plants thriving in one of the harshest deserts on Earth may unlock findings on how we can prevent famine amid the growing effects of climate change.

The Atacama Desert in Chile is known as one of the driest places in the world. With dusty red rocks stretching for miles on end, the region receives only slightly more than half an inch of rain per year, according to National Geographic.

Despite the dearth of water, dozens of species of plants grow in the area. The study calls the desert an “unparalleled natural laboratory to study plant adaptation to extreme environmental conditions.”

One of the effects of climate change is global desertification, and the study cites that, by 2035, 65% of our total land surface will be affected by desertification, up from 48% in 2016. The associated drought, elevated radiation, salinity and extreme temperatures will make it increasingly hard to grow crops in parts of the world.

A combination of climate change, land mismanagement and unsustainable freshwater use is already causing water to become scarce and soils to become poor in minerals in several regions of the world, according to Carbon Brief, a U.K.-based website covering the latest developments in climate science.

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By studying the genetic makeup of these plants, researchers were able to identify what particular qualities made them so resilient in the unforgiving desert.

So what shared genes showed up in these plants? The most common genes in 32 of the species were in relation to stress response, metabolism and energy production.

Researchers noted 265 genes that provided the desert plants with an evolutionary advantage, and they’ve described this repository as “a ‘genetic goldmine’ to engineer crop resilience to face climate change.”

How did the researchers do it? Turns out, it was an effort that spanned over 10 years and 27 researchers across various institutions and universities around the world. The researchers studied 22 sites at every 328 feet of elevation.

Upon studying the soil, they also found that it lacked many essential minerals typical for plant growth. The study reported “extremely low” levels of nitrogen in all of its samples. The researchers then discovered that nestled near the plant roots were scores of growth-enhancing bacteria. The bacteria can suck nitrogen from the air to provide crucial minerals for the plants, protect the plants against pathogens, make the plants more drought-resistant and increase plant hormone production.

The treasure trove of data gathered from the study has broad implications for the future of food security.

“Some of these extraordinarily resilient plants are closely related to staple crops, such as cereals, legumes, and the potato family, and therefore can provide invaluable genetic material for crop breeding,” the study says.

COP26 tackles land use and desertification

The study was released on Monday as world leaders gathered in Glasgow, Scotland, for COP26, a United Nations climate summit aimed at limiting the increase in global temperatures to below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

One of the goals of the conference was also to “implement and, if necessary, redesign agricultural policies and programmes to incentivise sustainable agriculture, promote food security, and benefit the environment,” according to the Glasgow Leaders’ Declaration on Forests and Land Use.