The UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the UN (FAO) have named two African initiatives among the UN World Restoration Flagships.

UNEP made this statement on Tuesday, ahead of the Sixth Session of the UN Environment Assembly (UNEA-6), stating that the initiatives included ecosystems at the tipping point of outright degradation resulting from wildfires, drought, deforestation, and pollution.

The sixth session is scheduled to hold in Nairobi from February 26 to March 1.

One of the initiatives recognised from Africa is Regreening Africa’s Agriculture, which has been using proven agroforestry techniques, adapted to suit the needs of farmers under varying socio-ecological contexts in the past two decades, to restore over 350,000 hectares in Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Mali, Niger, Rwanda, Senegal and Somalia.

By 2030, a further five million hectares are planned to be restored by the initiative.

Growing forests in Africa’s drylands – African farmers transforming the food system – is the second recognised African initiative.

It is a forest garden programme launched in 2015, with multiple projects in Cameroon, the Central African Republic, Chad, The Gambia, Kenya, Mali, Senegal, Uganda and Tanzania.

The initiators according to the agencies are now eligible for technical and financial support from the two global bodies.

The UN agencies spearheading the recognition said it was part of the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration, which aims to prevent, halt and reverse the degradation of ecosystems on every continent and in every ocean.

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The recognition tracks notable initiatives that support global commitments to restore one billion hectares.

“For too long, economic development came at the expense of the environment. Yet, today we see global efforts to usher in a comeback for nature.

“These initiatives show how we can make peace with nature, put local communities at the heart of restoration efforts and still create new jobs.

“As we continue to face a triple planetary crisis of climate change, nature and biodiversity loss, and pollution and waste, now is the time we must double down and accelerate restoration initiatives,” said Inger Andersen, Executive Director of UNEP.

The global agencies said that the seven new flagships are expected to restore nearly 40 million hectares − an area almost 600 times the size of Nairobi − and create around 500,000 jobs.

FAO Director-General, QU Dongyu, said: “FAO is pleased to recognize these seven worthy champions, proving that we can offer the leading examples to reverse ecosystem degradation at scale, while also addressing the impacts of the climate crisis and biodiversity loss.

“Restoring terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems is a crucial step in the transformation of global agrifood systems to be more efficient, inclusive, resilient and sustainable.

“Ecosystem restoration is a long-term solution in the fight to eradicate poverty, hunger and malnutrition, as we face population growth and increased need for foods and ecosystem goods and services.”