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GEF backs 'Great Green Wall' with 119 million dollars

by Staff Writers
Ndjamena (AFP) June 17, 2010
The Global Environment Facility announced Thursday at a summit in Chad that it will fund a "Great Green Wall" to reforest northern Africa to the tune of 119 million dollars (96 million euros).

"We will make an allocation to each of your countries," GEF chief executive officer Monique Barbut told leaders from 11 nations in Ndjamena. "The size of the allocation will depend on the country. (...) The cumulative total of aid from the GEF comes to about 119 million dollars."

The leaders of 11 African nations had gathered Thursday in the Chadian capital for the first summit on the Great Green Wall, which is a pan-African proposal to reforest the continent from west to east to battle desertification.

"The Great Green Wall is a project conceived of by Africans for Africans and for future generations," said host President Idriss Deby Itno, in his welcome speech at the presidential palace in Ndjamena.

"It's an African contribution to the battle against global warming," Deby added.

Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade said in his speech that "the desert is in a cancerous state. We must fight it. This is why we have decided on this Titanesque struggle."

Barbut said that "beyond the direct financing, the GEF could serve as a catalyst to encourage other donors to become interested in the Great Green Wall."

According to its website, the GEF is an independent financial organisation that today unites 182 member governments -- in partnership with international institutions, nongovernmental organizations, and the private sector -- to address global environmental issues.

The Great Green Wall is aimed at tackling "the degradation of the soil and poverty in the Sahel-Saharan region," Chad's Minister of the Environment Hassan Terapun told AFP on Wednesday.

The project was in 2007 "adopted by the African Union, which made it an African response to the problem of desertification", he added.

Sponsors of the Great Green Wall project envisage a strip of forest about 15 kilometres (nine miles) wide on average that would link Dakar on the Atlantic coast with Djibouti on the Red Sea in the east. The wall would be more than 7,100 kilometres (4,400) miles long.

The 11 countries involved in the project are Burkina Faso, Chad, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal and Sudan.

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