Morocco’s King lays out vision to address desertification challenges in Africa
“We are determined to combat the common enemy of desertification through coordinated, solidarity-based action”, said King Mohammed VI in a message addressed to the Summit on Drought & Sustainable Land Management which opened Monday in Abidjan.
The royal message, which was read out by minister of Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Forests Mohamed Sadiki, called for setting up “genuine African alliance against desertification”, with adequate financial and technological resources for effective action, underlining that the fight against desertification and land degradation is an existential struggle for everyone.
The Monarch stressed the importance of the Abidjan Initiative to be launched after this Summit, voicing hope that it would turn political commitments into concrete measures and contribute to enhancing African resilience to drought.
The Abidjan initiative is building on the momentum spurred by the African Action Summit for continental co-emergence, held in Marrakech on the sidelines of the COP22 on climate.
“Now it’s the time to speed up the implementation of practical programs to combat desertification within the framework of concrete, pragmatic and revamped regional cooperation,” said the Sovereign, congratulating the President of Côte d’Ivoire Alassane Dramane Ouattara for the successful organization of this Summit held on the sidelines of the 15th session of the Conference of the Parties of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification.
Africa is suffering from desertification, with millions of hectares threatened by desert encroachment which is progressing in some regions at a rate of 5 km per year, said the Monarch, affirming that land degradation is a multiplier of vulnerabilities.
“When environmental security is threatened, that affects food security, human security and, in fact, all matters relating to security in general,” said King Mohammed VI, noting that “areas suffering from extreme environmental degradation are also often areas where conflicts break out, where populations are displaced and where terrorist and separatist groups seek to get a foothold”.
All these facts prove that “the fight against desertification and land degradation is an existential struggle for everyone – and even more so in Africa”, added the Sovereign, saying that “this fight should not be hampered by a lack of technological capabilities or financial resources, much less political will”.
To address the desertification challenges, the King stressed the need to reduce vulnerabilities to drought, build capacity for sustainable land management, unify regional and international efforts, deploy anti-drought solutions and control water stress.
Addressing the gathering, President Alassane Ouattara said “Our Summit must be one of hope, of the collective mobilization of States and development partners, in favor of land and forest restoration initiatives of our countries. We must use all the resources of our Conventions to meet the ever-increasing food needs and cope with the ever-increasing water stress of an ever-growing world population.”