'Grand African Savannah Green Up': Major $85 Million Project Announced to Scale up Agroforestry in Africa
By Erik Hoffner
Amid a deluge of news during the U.N. Climate Summit last month, one major announcement went largely uncovered, yet is among the most important initiatives aimed at reducing the effects of climate change revealed during the events in New York City.
A group of NGOs announced there that they have joined forces in what they're calling "the biggest land restoration project ever seen." They reported securing funding from G9 Ark to implement the initial phase of their first initiative, an $85 million project dubbed the Grand African Savannah Green Up.
The Green Up project is envisioned as a massive scaling-up of Farmer Managed Natural Regeneration (FMNR) — the encouragement of regeneration of trees and shrubs that sprout from stumps, roots and seeds found in degraded soils, such as those currently under agricultural production — and other complementary practices across a swath of Tanzania, Uganda, Malawi, Zambia, Kenya and Ethiopia.
FMNR in action: a farmer removes side stems from resprouted Guiera senegalensis, the first step in encouraging a strong trunk. Image courtesy of P. Savadogo / World Agroforestry
Once established in farm fields, these woody plants improve soil fertility and moisture for crops planted in combination with them in a system known as agroforestry, which also sequesters carbon from the atmosphere while providing habitat for a diversity of creatures. FMNR made headlines several years ago when 5 million hectares (12 million acres) of Niger were reported to have been regreened via the practice.
The coalition, which calls itself the Global EverGreening Alliance, has a goal of capturing 20 billion tons of CO2 annually by 2050, a figure they say would offset the anticipated fossil fuel emissions during this period while cooling the atmosphere via projects across Africa, Latin America, and Southeast and South Asia. The coalition is made up of NGOs such as World Vision, Catholic Relief Services, World Agroforestry, CARE International, Justdiggit, World Resources Institute, The Nature Conservancy, Concern Worldwide, and others.
Calling the Climate Week launch event at the Global Landscapes Forum a success and climate change an existential crisis, alliance chairman Dennis Garrity (who is also a distinguished senior research fellow with World Agroforestry and drylands ambassador for the U.N. Convention to Combat Desertification) told Mongabay by email that there will be six key areas of activity.
According to a draft alliance white paper reviewed by Mongabay, these activities include tripling the current rate of carbon accumulation on degraded farmlands by increasing tree cover through FMNR and agroforestry; increasing soil carbon through conservation farming practices on at least 500 million hectares (1.24 billion acres) of agricultural land; scaling up the use of leguminous shrubs that can fix nitrogen on farmlands; restoring tree cover on 575 million hectares (1.42 billion acres) of degraded forests and in urban environments; suppression of fire and regenerating a "healthy grass-tree balance" on 650 million hectares (1.61 billion acres) of degraded pasturelands; and deployment of carbon capture and storage from "evergreen energy generation."
Millet in Maradi, Niger, benefiting from proximity to Combretum glutinosum shrubs that a farmer is assisting to resprout from stumps. Combretum glutinosum is a fast-growing, drought-resistant woody plant common in the dry Sahel. Image courtesy of P. Savadogo / World Agroforestry
Reached by Mongabay for comment about the alliance's first initiative, agroforestry author and expert Eric Toensmeier said, "This may be the largest individual investment ever made in agroforestry. The area that will be restored, 2 million hectares [5 million acres] by 2025, is almost the size of New Jersey."
The author of the best-selling book The Carbon Farming Solution and a research fellow for the climate change mitigation think tank Project Drawdown, Toensmeier said that FMNR "was developed in the Sahel and is one of the world's fastest-spreading agricultural mitigation practices. It's great [to] see this recognition of the critical role that Sahelian farmers play in drawing down atmospheric carbon," he added.
The alliance's Garrity agreed: "Millions of farm families in the Sahel have been regenerating hundreds of millions of trees on their croplands, to enhance their crop and livestock production and adapt their farming systems to climate change-induced droughts [and] the average tree cover on Sahelian farmlands has now reached 16%. Their efforts are truly inspiring, and they point us toward how much greater action can be achieved to restore degraded lands throughout the drylands of the world," he said.
Agroforestry is already thought to sequester 45 gigatons of carbon, a figure estimated to grow by almost 0.75 gigatons annually, and is said to already cover up to a billion hectares (2.5 billion acres) of land globally. For the past two years, Mongabay has focused a special series on the implementation and impact of agroforestry worldwide.
Reposted with permission from our media associate Mongabay.
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It's going to be back-to-school time soon, but will children go into the classrooms?
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) thinks so, but only as long as safety measures are in place.
Keeping Schools Safe<p>What will safer schools look like?</p><p>In a <a href="https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/fullarticle/2766822" target="_blank">JAMA article</a> published last month, <a href="https://www.jhsph.edu/faculty/directory/profile/1781/joshua-m-sharfstein" target="_blank">Dr. Joshua Sharfstein</a>, a pediatrician and professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, outlined suggestions — many of which are similar to AAP's.</p><p>Remote learning protocols must stay in place, especially as some schools stagger home and in-building learning. If another shutdown needs to occur, children will rely on distance learning completely, so it must be easy to switch to, he said.</p><p>He suggested giving parents a daily checklist to document their child's health. Kids should be screened quickly on arrival and be given hygiene supplies. Maintenance staff should use appropriate PPE and have regular cleaning schedules. A notification system should be in place if a case is identified, Sharfstein recommended.</p><p><a href="https://www.albany.edu/rockefeller/faculty/erika-martin" target="_blank">Erika Martin</a>, PhD, an associate professor of public administration and policy at University at Albany, said nutrition assistance and health services should be included. She called for tutoring programs with virtual options as well as technology access.</p>
Supporting Staff<p>Teachers and staff will be affected by safeguarding measures, noted <a href="https://directory.sph.umn.edu/bio/sph-a-z/rachel-widome" target="_blank">Rachel Widome</a>, PhD, an associate professor of epidemiology and community health at University of Minnesota.</p><p>"In order for all of the in-school precautions to work well, we'll be asking a lot of teachers and staff," Widome told Healthline. In addition to their usual workload, they'll now be asked to monitor mask-wearing, ensure children are keeping distance, and be aware of any symptoms.</p><p>Along with Sharfstein, Widome called for an increase in financial support. More employees will likely be required so teachers and staff members can keep up with the added demands.</p>
Should Kids Go Back?<p>While these guidelines may help get some schools to reopen, many people don't think children should go back to school over fears they could contract the disease and spread it to other vulnerable family members like grandparents, infant siblings, or their parents.</p><p>In a <a href="https://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/early/2020/07/08/peds.2020-004879" target="_blank">Pediatrics</a> commentary, <a href="https://www.md.com/doctor/william-raszka-md" target="_blank">Dr. William V. Raszka, Jr.</a>, an infectious disease specialist at The University of Vermont Medical Center, argued that schools should open because school-aged children are far less important drivers of COVID-19 than adults.</p><p>But he says the risk and benefit is not equal among all students ages 5 to 18.</p><p>"Elementary schools are arguably higher priority for face-to-face schooling, since younger children are at lower risk for infection and transmission, and since parental supervision of younger children's distance learning may be particularly challenging," added Sorensen, who penned a <a href="https://jamanetwork.com/channels/health-forum/fullarticle/2767411" target="_blank">June article in JAMA</a> with reopening tips. "That means middle and high schools are more likely to emphasize distance learning."</p><p>Specific student populations, such as special education students and students with disabilities, would also benefit greatly from more time spent in face-to-face environments, Sorensen said.</p>
What Parents Can Do<p>Parents should ask for and receive frequent updates from schools about plans for the fall. They should also be informed about plans if and when COVID infections are identified, Sharfstein said.</p><p>"I'd like to see parents investing now, during the summer, in doing things that can slow and stop the spread of the virus in their communities," Widome said.</p><p>"Now is a good time for kids to practice wearing masks and get used to them as they may be wearing them for longer stretches if school starts up in person," Widome suggested.</p><p>She recommends parents try different mask designs and materials to see what children are more comfortable wearing.</p><p>"If you are using cloth face coverings, it's good to have extras on hand," Widome added.</p><p>Parents should model healthy behavior at home and while out in public — another thing that could affect how well children adapt to reopening practices, Sorensen said.</p><p>"Children may want to know more about face coverings," added <a href="https://www.linkedin.com/in/leescott/" target="_blank">Lee Scott</a>, chairwoman of the Educational Advisory Board at <a href="https://www.goddardschool.com/" target="_blank">The Goddard School</a>. "Dramatic play, such as creating or wearing a face covering, may help some children adjust to this concept." Schools can also show children photos of what faculty members look like in their masks so the students are familiar with that appearance.</p><p>Johns Hopkins University recently released its eSchool+ Initiative, a slew of resources surrounding education during the pandemic. These include a <a href="https://equityschoolplus.jhu.edu/reopening-checklist/" target="_blank">checklist for administrators</a>, report on <a href="https://equityschoolplus.jhu.edu/ethics-of-reopening/" target="_blank">ethical considerations</a>, and a tracker of <a href="https://equityschoolplus.jhu.edu/reopening-policy-tracker/" target="_blank">state and local reopening plans</a>.</p>
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