The Power of Community: Locals Should Lead on Sahel 'Green Wall'

We all know that there is finally a massive effort underway to combat the effects of climate change, both in terms of mitigation and adaptation. You only have to look at the commitments coming out of the CGI last week to know that people around the world are stepping up to the challenge in a way that has not been seen before. However, it will become extremely important that we maintain scrutiny on the kind of responses that are being developed, ensuring they are effective, viable and appropriate. Camilla Toulmin, director of the International Institute for Environment and Development, argues in a column over at the BBC website that too many climate related schemes originate from centralized, government-led planning, and she proposes that a greater degree of community autonomy could prove a lot more effective. In particular, she refers to plans in West Africa to plant a "green wall" to prevent encroachment of the Sahara:

"The "bricks" need to be drawn from local materials, knowledge and skills. Instead of planting trees, such a wall needs to grow from natural regeneration of local seedlings. The West African Sahel is likely to face major impacts from global warming, leading in the long term to higher temperatures, bigger storms and heavier rains leading to greater soil erosion and runoff.

Is there a universal solution to this which will work across the region? Are there universal solutions for any environmental problems? Do experts have all the answers? Will a big slug of money generate the desired outcomes? For me, the answers to all these questions are "no, no, no and no"."

Toulmin goes on to argue that governments should learn from past colonialist mistakes, and, instead of 'shipping in' solutions, they should listen to and support community-led reforestation, seed saving and planting initiatives that are culturally appropriate and locally workable. For more thoughts on how communities can take the lead on climate change, take a look at our guide on How to Green Your Community. ::BBC::via site visit::