“The Great Green Wall is about peace, hope and uniting people,” Nigerian youth leader Hamzat Lawal told an audience assembled in New York during last week’s UN proceedings. “Trees can curb climate change.” Not only do trees remove CO2 from the air and supply the oxygen we breathe—they also offer visual hope, providing bright green life where once there was nothing.
On the eve of the UN Climate Action Summit in New York, UNGA attendees came together for a discussion and celebration of the Great Green Wall initiative unfolding across Africa from Senegal to Djibouti. The ambitious endeavor aims to rally the communities and economies of the Sahel region behind the goal of creating an 8,000-km wall of green spanning the entire continent: a new wonder of the world.
Timberland pledge their support to the Great Green Wall. (Leigh Vogel)
An African-led movement, the Great Green Wall aims to drive forward climate-smart solutions and restore life to degraded landscapes in order to provide food security, jobs and thriving new economies for the communities living in Africa’s Sahel region. The scope of the project extends far beyond a physical mosaic of trees: it is a people-driven movement, one which offers economic benefits and social unity to a region that has long grappled with poverty and violence.
At the UNGA event, the eco-friendly footwear manufacturer Timberland announced its support for the Great Green Wall campaign. “As a brand pursuing a better future for our planet, Timberland is proud to join the Great Green Wall movement,” the company’s president, Jim Pisani, stated, “which we see as crucial in supporting communities on the front lines of the global climate emergency and building a more sustainable and equitable future.”
UNCCD Executive Secretary Ibrahim Thiaw wants the Wall to be reality by 2030. (Kaia Rose)
Ibrahim Thiaw, Executive Secretary of the UNCCD, convened the event, which was jointly organized by the UNCCD and Connect4Climate - World Bank Group, to call on governments, civil society and business to join a growing global movement to make the Great Green Wall a reality by 2030. The World Bank Group was represented by Juergen Voegele, Global Director, Climate Change, who called the Great Green Wall “a tremendous example of how we can fight poverty by revitalizing degraded land through climate-smart practices.”
Connect4Climate’s contributions to the Great Green Wall advocacy campaign include providing support for the Great Green Wall documentary, which recently premiered at Venice Film Festival. Produced by MAKE Waves and the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) with backing from long-standing Connect4Climate partner Building Energy, the film tracks Malian singer and activist Inna Modja as she travels across Africa, visiting countries along the Great Green Wall where sustainability and reforestation projects are taking root. Along the journey, she witnesses the impact of climate change on numerous communities in the Sahel, and is inspired by stories of resilience, optimism and collective action to fight for the Wall and all it signifies.
Waje sings for the crowd. (Leigh Vogel)
Famed Nigerian vocalist Waje performed at the UNGA event, as did the Malian group Songhoy Blues. The music of both artists features prominently in the Great Green Wall documentary, and they provided an emotional close to an evening full of hope and possibility.
Enthusiasm around the Great Green Wall and its message continued into September 23, when an event titled “From Green Walls to Green Wallets: The Importance of Financing Nature-Based Solutions” took place at Nature’s Climate Hub. Expanding on the newly launched Principles of Responsible Banking, this dialogue brought multinational stakeholders together for a brainstorm of innovative financial strategies to boost nature-based climate solutions around the world.
Songhoy Blues close out the September 22 event in style. (Kaia Rose)
The event was devoted in large part to the Great Green Wall project and its model for bringing fresh, sustainable economic growth to a region searching for stability. Backed by the GEF and UNCCD among others, the initiative has already garnered some $4 billion in support. And as Laura Tuck, Vice President of Sustainable Development at the World Bank, asserted, “The World Bank is committed to staying engaged in the Sahel—supporting countries as they strive for a greener, more productive and healthy landscape, and an environment that is kinder to people.” Excerpts of the Great Green Wall film were showcased for attendees.
Connect4Climate was honored to participate in these events, which illustrated the power of the arts—film, music, and more—to connect people worldwide and build a movement around the bold vision of the Great Green Wall. The UNCCD’s Ibrahim Thiaw is beyond excited for what is to come. “The Great Green Wall is a truly inspirational initiative,” he said, “which is growing urgent solutions in the face of the 21st century’s greatest challenges.”
Banner image courtesy of Leigh Vogel.