A woman carries food back home in Burkina Faso. Ollivier Girard, CIFOR

“Africa is blessed with drylands.”

Catch up on some memorable quotes from GLF's digital conference on restoring Africa's drylands

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This is a year to meant to spark change, from kicking off the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration (2021-2030) to reaching a new global consensus in major summits that aim to tackle climate change, biodiversity loss, food insecurity and more. On 2-3 June, thousands of Africans and others from around the world gathered to attend the Global Landscape Forum’s digital conference on restoring Africa’s drylands, an often overlooked but important part of the world, where participants had the opportunity to learn from and connect with scientists, youth and community leaders, artists, policymakers, and more. Read here some key quotes from the event’s many speakers, and hopefully come away inspired for what will be a historic year.

On community

“It makes business sense to source locally. It makes business sense to invest in communities and to respect and restore the environment.” – Ndidi Okonkwo Nwuneli, Managing Partner, Sahel Consulting

“We also have to be careful, as part of what we are doing, so that as we talk about restoring our rangelands, we are also not bringing practices that finally will alienate the pastoralists from their own land.” – John Kamanga, Director, South Rift Association of Land Owners (SORALO)

“We are starting the UN Decade of Restoration, and we cannot do that in the Sahel area or other areas of Africa if we don’t work with the local communities who are the ones in the rural areas and have to plant it and live off those resources.” – Garo Batmanian, Global Lead for Forests, Landscapes, and Biodiversity, ENB GP, World Bank

“This is the most important thing when your objective is to achieve a successful restoration project: the community accepting and taking ownership of the project.” – Charity Lanoi, Restoration Steward, Moilo Grass Seed Bank

On food and agriculture

“If farmers get more with less, they’ll do more with less.” – Agnes Kalibata, President, UN Special Envoy, The Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), 2021 Food Systems Summit

“Any food lost or wasted is water and land squandered, and greenhouse gas emitted.” – Tina Birmpili, Deputy Executive Secretary, UNCCD

On taking action

“With the [Rangelands] Atlas we are shining a light on exactly this challenges: (…) to get a lot more definition of which areas are considered as rangelands – then we can start tracking how it works on the global agenda.” – Jonathan Davies, Global Drylands Coordinator/Senior Agriculture Advisor, International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN)

“Start from where you are. Often, you want to be involved in very big projects, but the fact is that every big project had a starting point. So you never know. Something you start today, in 10 years, can be much, much bigger.” – Olupot Joseph, Assistant Director, Priceless Farms

“Ecosystem restoration is never for its own sake. It is for the sake of everyone.” – Mordecai Ogada, Executive Director, Conservation Solutions Afrika

“Promises don’t put trees and grass in the ground. Promises don’t build ecosystems. Action does. To act with speed and purpose we need to get the finance flowing.” – Inger Andersen, Executive Director, United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)

“Create the small impact that you think you can create in your vicinity. Talk about the issues that you do not like with others, and try to bring everybody to understand the step that you want to take with that. In the end, we would all meet at the top.” – Desmond Alugnoa, Co-founder, Green Africa Youth Organization (GAYO)

“We need a way of thinking and swift action worldwide, a transformation moving away from systems that harm the environment and society towards sustainable systems. That concerns us all, both in the Global North and the Global South, even if in different ways.” – Maria Flachsbarth, Parliamentary State Secretary, German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ)

“We need once more to become a community of learners. We need to learn again to invent, co-invent and re-invent. There is no one solution.” – Ravi Prabhu, Deputy Director General (Research), World Agroforestry (ICRAF)

“The role that young people play is pretty much the biggest comparative advantage that Africa has. How do we interest them, activate them and invest in their ideas? The Sahel is the youngest part of the world’s youngest continent. That ought to be a source of great strength and inspiration.” – Wanjira Mathai, Vice President and Regional Director for Africa, World Resources Institute (WRI)

“Everyone is concerned. If you have an idea, think about it, consult about it, pray about it and then rise with an answer. Do it. If you wait for clear answers for everything, you’ll never get there.” – Simon E. Chiwanga, Founder, LEAD Foundation

On the importance of drylands

“Without its drylands, Africa would not be Africa. Africa is blessed with drylands.” – Ibrahim Thiaw, Executive Secretary, United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD)

“For us in Malawi the dryland landscape is a very important component of the ecosystem. They are a source of rivers and streams that drain into (…) Malawi. They are a source of water for irrigation, grazing and a reservoir of biodiversity with abundant species of animals and plants.” – H.E. Nancy Tembo, Minister of Forestry and Natural Resources of the Republic of Malawi

“Drylands are extremely important not just for the survival of biodiversity but also for us, for our culture, for our survival and for the way we interact with nature itself.” – Adjany Costa, Advisor for Environmental Affairs, President of the Republic of Angola

And finally, more words of wisdom

“Essentially, it is putting people at the centre of conversation and people at the centre of conservation.” – Tony Simons, Director General, World Agroforestry (ICRAF), Executive Director, CIFOR-ICRAF

“Anything that is a single, simplistic, silver-bullet solution isn’t likely to work.” – Robert Nasi, Director General, Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), Managing Director, CIFOR-ICRAF

“There’s a generation of ‘nothing to lose’, and the more we spend time and energy and resources to create something for people to fight for and to live for, the less conflict and less being pulled into conflict is interesting for people.” – Selassie Atadika, Chef and Founder, Midunu

“Policies are not implemented for the current age. They are implemented for the future generations.” – Betty Osei Bonsu, Environmentalist, Green Africa Youth Organization (GAYO)

“Regreening mindscapes. If you win that battle, the rest plays naturally.” – Tony Rinaudo, Principal Natural Resources Advisor, World Vision Australia

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