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Blue and Green Economies

The Blue and Green economies can serve as the foundations for Sahelian development, particularly with the Blue ensuring the environmental sustainability of Coastal areas and livelihoods, and the Green providing low-carbon, resource-efficient, and inclusive economic growth

In the path toward development in the Sahel region, it is fundamental to build enduring foundations on which the region can thrive; therefore, economic growth must be propelled through sustainable paths. Blue and green economies can be those foundations. The former guarantee “low carbon, resource efficient and socially inclusive” economic growth, and the latter ensure the environmental sustainability of coastal areas and oceans while promoting “economic growth, social inclusion and the preservation or improvement of livelihoods”. Agriculture is a key area vulnerable to climate change. Yet there are many opportunities to implement nature-based and sustainable solutions for long-term sustainable growth and resilience. Experts estimate that sound agriculture practices could unlock an extra US$2 trillion in rural growth, especially in Africa where agriculture is “likely to be the main source of people’s livelihoods for the next several decades”.

Nature- or climate-based solutions play a multifaceted role in mitigating and adapting to climate change ruptures, protecting biodiversity, and improving living standards and well-being. They are based on working with and enhancing nature rather than imposing engineered solutions, and their proponents aim to work inclusively with local communities from the bottom up, with a focus on the more vulnerable members, for sustainable long-term solutions. Strategies include the management and protection of ecosystems, the incorporation of green and blue infrastructure, and the application of ecosystem-based principles to agricultural systems.

Nature-based solutions have a significant potential in the Sahel due both to the region’s rich biodiversity and its vulnerability to development pressures, political instability, organised wildlife crime, poverty, and climate change. Within the wider sustainable development framework, agroforestry appears as an important nature-based intervention, with several successful examples across the Sahel region. In Burkina Faso, the Gazetted Forests Participatory Management Project for REDD+, funded by the African Development Bank (AfDB), sought to help reduce deforestation and forest degradation in order to reinforce forests’ carbon sequestration capacity thanks to improved governance, environment-friendly local socioeconomic development and sustainable management of forest resources and wooded areas while reducing poverty in rural areas. In Chad, the Restoring Ecological Corridors in the Mayo-Kebbi Quest, Chad, to Support Multiple Land and Forests Benefits – RECONNECT, funded by the Global Environmental Facility, has through sustainable natural resource management, especially of forest resources, sought to reduce CO2 emissions through carbon sequestering, maintaining ecosystem services and enhancing soil productivity to increase sustainable use of natural resources by local communities. In Mauritania, the “Renforcement de la résilience des communautés aux effets néfastes du changement climatique sur la sécurité alimentaire en Mauritanie” sought to strengthen the resilience and food security of agricultural, pastoral and agro-pastoral communities vulnerable to climate change by implementing actions to combat desertification and soil degradation and improve community members’ standard of living.

Blue economy – the efficient management and sustainable exploitation of resources in oceans, seas, lakes, and rivers – has the potential to contribute up to US$1.5 trillion to the global economy. The Sahel region is rich in rivers, lakes, floodplains, and deltas such as the Senegal River, the Inner Niger Delta, and the Lake Chad Basin. These are highly productive and biologically diverse ecosystems, fed by seasonal floods. They play a crucial role in local economies. Millions of people depend on the vitality of these wetlands, whose outputs of fish, cattle, and crops such as rice are directly proportional to the flood extent. During the dry season, wetlands attract pastoralists and act as a buffer against droughts for very large areas of the region. However, these water resources are becoming increasingly scarce due to insufficient natural resource management and unsustainable use, exacerbated by climate change. According to Wetlands International, there are significant economic costs to losing Sahelian wetlands as evidenced by the impacts of dams in northern Nigeria, on the Senegal River, and in Guinea and Cameroon on communities whose land- and water-based livelihoods have been disrupted.

Employing climate finance to implement blue economy projects throughout the UNISS region will help leverage growth in the blue economy and thus economic transformation. It will not only help restore and harden these blue ecosystems against the effects of climate change, but it will also strengthen the resilience of the population dependent on the waters for their livelihoods. Furthermore, blue economy initiatives targeting vegetated coastal ecosystems, specifically mangrove forests, seagrass beds, and salt marshes can help mitigate climate change through carbon sequestration. This process is also termed ‘blue carbon’. UNEP has partnered with Wetland International to form BLiSS – an initiative to revive and safeguard the Sahel region’s rivers, floodplains, lakes, deltas, and ponds in an effort to improve water and food security and build resilience for communities. BLiSS engages with the African Union through the Great Green Wall Initiative and CARE. The collaboration bridges the restoration of wetlands and drylands through community-based actions using local approaches and upscaling existing efforts.

By the end of 2030, the goal is to safeguard 20 million hectares of Sahelian wetlands and restore at least six major systems to improve the livelihoods of 10 million people across the Sahel.

Date - 12 May - 2023

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