Toute l'actu sur la protection de l'environnement

Charles Balogoun: « Over 70% of arable land is already degraded

Oyéoussi Charles Balogoun is the Africa Representative of the NGO Panel under the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD). The Civil Society Panel (CSO Panel) of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) represents nearly 500 organisations accredited to the Convention. Charles Balogoun is also the Global President and Chairman of the Board of the non-governmental organisation (NGO) Afrique Espérance. He answers ENVIRONNEMENTALES’s questions on the state of desertification in Africa. 

What is your panel’s assessment of the advancing desert in Africa?

First of all, I would like to say a big thank you to your media organisation, which makes enormous efforts to support endogenous initiatives to combat the effects of climate change. You were with us from the start in 2020 after the Institut de la Francophonie pour le développement durable (IFDD), a subsidiary body of the Organisation internationale de la Francophonie (OIF), awarded us a grant for the implementation of the project « organic waste recovery to increase the income of women’s groups in the council of Zè in southern Benin ». And so to answer your question, before the COP15 UNCCD held from 9 to 20 May 2022 in Abidjan in Ivory Coast, the 2nd Review of the Global Land Outlook, Second Edition was launched. The conclusions of this report are alarming and worrying for our survival on earth. According to the experts involved in this scientific and research activity, more than 70% of the arable land is already degraded and therefore unusable and infertile; only 30% is left to feed more than 7 billion people on the globe. This state of affairs also affects the ability of our environment to absorb the influence of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, causing damage to the ozone layer and in turn reflecting the high level of global warming. Urgent and appropriate measures are therefore needed to address this. Hence the interest of the strong resolutions and recommendations of the « Abidjan Declaration ».

At the COP15 on desertification from 9 to 20 May 2022 in Ivory Coast, many delegates from the African continent wanted to see the adoption of an additional protocol on drought, inspired by the Kyoto Protocol on climate. What is your panel doing to support the adoption of such a protocol at COP16, which will take place in 2024 in Saudi Arabia?

The highlights of the UNCCD COP15 in Abidjan include planting one billion trees by 2030, restoring more than 30% of degraded land by 2030, building resilience to drought by identifying the expansion of drylands, creating an Intergovernmental Working Group on Drought for 2022-2024, improving women’s involvement in land management as stakeholders, combating sand and dust storms, and other increasing disaster risks, as well as promoting decent land-related jobs for youth and youth entrepreneurship, but also supporting their participation in the Convention process. To these various strong resolutions, the CSO Panel Africa branch in good understanding with the UNCCD CSO Panel (global) has already validated its two-year work plan. The first step is to take stock of the existing situation, i.e. the accredited organisations and what they are doing on the ground. This will allow us to have a reliable data base to make decisions and implement consequent projects. To support the adoption of such a protocol, and I must remind you that it is the « Parties » (delegates from the 195 States that have ratified the Convention, editor’s note) that have the right to vote, but the CSOs, also called « observers », can make proposals and are only taken into account if the General Assembly finds them very relevant as a proposal. This is why we are already preparing a call for contributions and ideas through a Google form to collect contributions from our peers. This long-term work will certainly result in what could be called « Africa’s contribution to the additional protocol ».

An intergovernmental working group on drought was created at COP 15. How does your panel relate to this group?

The aim is to support the work of the COP15 UNCCD presidency, whose high office is held by Donwahi Richard, and that of the Executive Secretariat led by Ibrahim Thiaw, a colleague of experts (delegates from member countries, members of the subsidiary structures of the convention, civil society, international NGOs, experts and consultants in the field of desertification and drought, and the private sector). Two civil society representatives have been nominated, one of them representing South America and the Caribbean (Ana Di Pangracio). You can see that the Panel is well represented in this important working group.

I would also like to take this opportunity to tell you about another Intergovernmental Working Group, the one on the Mid-Term Review of the UNCC Strategic Framework 2028-2030, to which I belong as Chair (or Chair of the CSO PANEL).

Given the ravages of desertification in Africa, a phenomenon that reduces food security in particular, what is your panel doing to give the UNCCD the same influence as the UNCCD?

This is a very important question because the purpose of the presence of CSOs alongside vulnerable populations at the grassroots is to help them deal with this important phenomenon. It is therefore a question of finding simple solutions to enable them to have fertile land useful for their crops and, in turn, save them from famine and ensure food security. This ranges from simple to complex and proven restoration techniques. All this is referred to as Land Degradation Neutrality (LDN).

In fact, the ultimate goal of the Convention’s long and hard work is to save our planet from the legacy of our Mother Earth, the lifeblood of everything that keeps us alive. Working tirelessly to ensure that the substance that gives it its flavour is not missing.

I would like to acknowledge in passing the support and frankness of other UN agencies that support the Convention in achieving its noble goals. These include the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), and international NGOs such as the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

What are the projects of your panel in the fight against desertification in Africa?

It is essentially a question of listing all the good practices tried and tested on the continent in order to make a good database useful for sharing experiences through an official website dedicated to the cause. We are planning to start a series of webinars on training and capacity building of the panel’s actors on themes that we will make available very soon.

Beyond that, we are keen to organise an international African civil society forum on issues affecting the convention by the end of our mandate.

Interview by Boris Ngounou

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