A map of restoration opportunities along Africa's Great Green Wall has been launched at the UN climate change conference, based on collection and analysis of crucial land-use information to boost action in Africa's drylands to increase the resilience of people and landscapes to climate change.
"The Great Green Wall initiative is Africa's flagship programme to combat the effects of climate change and desertification," said Eduardo Mansur, Director of FAO's Land and Water Division, while presenting the new map at the COP 22 in Marrakech.
"Early results of the initiative's actions show that degraded lands can be restored, but these achievements pale in comparison with what is needed," he added during a high-level event called "Resilient Landscapes in Africa's Drylands: Seizing Opportunities and Deepening Commitments".
Mansur hailed the new assessment tool used to produce the map as vital in providing information to understand the true dimension of restoration needs in the vast drylands across North Africa, Sahel and the Horn.
As per the Global Drylands Assessment by FAO and partners in 2015-2016, it is estimated that 166 million hectares of the Great Green Wall area offer opportunities for restoration projects.
The Great Green Wall's core area crosses arid and semi-arid zones on the North and south sides of the Sahara. Its core area covers 780 million hectares and it is home to 232 million people. To halt and reverse land degradation, around 10 million hectares will need to be restored each year, according to the assessment. This will contribute to achieving Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.
The data was obtained by analysing 63 000 half-hectare sample plots in Africa using FAO's Open Foris Collect Earth tool and high-resolution satellite images.
Experts say a variety of restoration approaches will be required to bring the Great Green Wall initiative to an effective scale and create a green, productive landscapes across North Africa, Sahel and the Horn.
These include natural regeneration allowing farmers to protect and manage the natural regeneration of forests, croplands and grasslands.
Where degradation is more severe, large-scale planting is needed.
Coser to the desert, sand encroachment can be fought by establishing native woody and grassy vegetation and managing the oases systems.