UN talks to tackle desertification and land degradation that have devastated large swathes of Africa began in Ivory Coast on Monday, as climate change wreaks havoc on the continent.
The UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), involving 196 countries and the EU, is meeting for the first time in three years in Abidjan.
Decades of unsustainable agriculture have depleted soils worldwide, and accelerated global warming and species loss, with an estimated 40 percent of land degraded globally, the UNCCD said.
“Our summit is taking place in the context of the climate emergency, which harshly impacts our land management policies and exacerbates drought,” Ivory Coast President Alassane Ouattara said. “Our people put great hope in us. We don’t have the right to disappoint them.”
“Let us act swiftly, let us act together to give new life to our lands,” he added.
Nine African heads of state, including Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari, Nigerien President Mohamed Bazoum and Democratic Republic of the Congo President Felix Tshisekedi, were among the continent’s leaders listening to Ouattara.
Bazoum spoke of “agricultural yields that fall from year to year,” while Tshisekedi pointed to the “lengthening of the dry seasons” and the “advance of the Sahara and Kalahari deserts” on the continent.
Ouattara presented the Abidjan Legacy Program Initiative to raise US$1.5 billion over five years to restore Ivory Coast’s “degraded forest ecosystems” and promote sustainable soil management.
The African Development Bank and the EU are among the main donors to the project.
Ivory Coast is among numerous African nations badly affected by desertification. Forest cover has fallen by 80 percent since 1900.
“At the current rate, our forest could totally disappear by 2050,” Ouattara said.
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