Africa

Innovative local solutions can create a green future for the Sahel

In Niger, located within the Sahel, Faidherbia trees help to increase crop yields.

In Niger, located within the Sahel, Faidherbia trees help to increase crop yields. Image: World Agroforestry

Rekia Foudel
Managing Partner, Barka Fund
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  • The future often described for the Sahel is that of desolate, uninhabitable land that presents disastrous challenges for the few people, animals, and ecosystems that remain.
  • Philanthropic funders and investors like the Barka Fund are looking for opportunities to invest in the region to avoid these consequences.
  • UpLink and 1t.org are sourcing the second round of solutions that aim to help restore the Sahel and grow the Great Green Wall

Scientists have long agreed that climate change is a regressive phenomenon, affecting vulnerable regions and countries the most. No place is this truer than in the Sahel, the region at the southern edge of the Sahara Desert, spanning from Senegal in the West to Djibouti in the East. As local temperatures continue to rise in this part of the world, crossing thresholds that no human has ever experienced, there have been catastrophic consequences on the people, animals, and ecosystems, ultimately leading to instability, food insecurity, conflicts over dwindling resources, and migration.

Yet communities across the Sahel are fighting back against climate change. Innovators and industrious entrepreneurs are stepping up to address various climate-related challenges in their communities. They are creating organizations and companies to mitigate and adapt to climate change and support the transition to environmentally sustainable systems of production.

Emerging alongside them, philanthropic funders and investors are looking for opportunities to invest capital in the Sahel to support these nascent entrepreneurial ecosystems and the growing enterprises emerging from them. They are seeking to have positive social and environmental impacts and increasingly, for the private sector investors positive financial returns.

These two stakeholders – entrepreneurs and investors are uniquely equipped to nurture the growth of these sustainable entrepreneurial ecosystems which can alleviate broader humanitarian priorities such as food insecurity, extreme poverty, and migration.

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Local solutions

The Great Green Wall is an African-led movement that aims to plant a wall of trees stretching across the entire Sahel. Enterprises big and small are contributing to this initiative and working to bring life back to the Sahel’s degraded landscapes, increase food security and create jobs and a reason to stay for the millions of young people in the region.

A young woman who studied abroad returned to her native Mali to start a company that produces, manufactures, and distributes moringa. The company organized women and young smallholder farmers groups to collect moringa leaves and prepare them for processing. The company’s mission is to contribute to the advancement of the Great Green Wall through reforestation activities, making moringa tree plantation profitable, and creating environmental, economic, and social benefits for the communities.

An innovative young man started a company that specializes in the production and marketing of organic fertilizers using a technology based on black fly larvae to address the problem of declining agricultural yields and soil fertility in the region. The innovation effectively shortens the production cycle of organic fertilizer from 3-6 months to 12 days. As studies have demonstrated that organic fertilizer was superior to synthetic fertilizers in enhancing the growth of plants in nutrient-poor soil, demand for its products has increased ten-fold since the company’s inception and continues to grow.

A seasoned consultant in the non-profit sector boldly creates a for-profit enterprise to produce and market eco-certified shea butter for the local markets and invests part of its profit in the regeneration of the shea tree forest. The company mobilizes rural communities consisting of women’s groups and provides them with mechanized technology to produce butter more efficiently in a cleaner and safer environment.

Global support

All these solutions are supported by strategic funders and investors focused on the region, including the Barka Fund. Barka is an early-stage impact fund, supporting and investing in entrepreneurs in the Sahel region. Barka’s mission is to create an ecosystem of investible start-ups providing solutions to urgent climate challenges, provide them with appropriate seed investments, balancing between impact and commercial objectives and encourage and mobilize global private investors to invest in the Sahel.

Barka is guided by three principled approaches to lead its efforts and make focused investments in the region:

  • Barka builds a strong partnership with local, regional, and international incubators and accelerators programs focused on the region to meet its pool of entrepreneurs. Barka’s current partnerships include 1t.org, UpLink, the World Resources Institute’s Land Accelerator, etc.
  • Barka invests in companies in a phased approach: selected entrepreneurs are invited to attend an investment readiness program to prepare to meet Barka and its co-investors conditions and raise capital smarter.
  • Barka provides investments ranging from $20,000 to $100,000 in initial seed investment for companies. Barka is filling an important financing gap and supports startups that would otherwise become stuck because of the unavailability of funds, targeting their needs.

Barka is focused on identifying and working alongside innovative solutions, led by founders with the vision to grow their enterprises, create more jobs and generate a positive economic and environmental impact that resonates throughout the Sahel. That is why the Barka Fund is a supporting partner of the recently launched 2022 Trillion Trees: the Sahel and the Great Green Wall Challenge​.

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A green future

The probable future often described for the Sahel is that of desolate land, uninhabitable and presenting disastrous challenges for the few people, animals, and ecosystem that will remain.

The myriads of young entrepreneurs building ventures and the funders and investors such as Barka Fund supporting them are driving collaborative action to increase the chance that the future for the Sahel will be different. For them, the possible future of the Sahel is a mosaic of green and fertile landscapes, a region that promotes sustainable environmental techniques and emerges as a natural wonder of our world.

Join us to be part of a growing movement to address climate change and build resilience better, faster, and together in the Sahel, by submitting your innovative solution on UpLink.

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