The Society of African Missionaries (SMA) is en route to receiving a major UN award for their efforts to tackle desertification.
Fr Maurice Henry, a member of the SMA’s Council for the Province of Ireland, was informed this week that his order were shortlisted for the 2019 ‘Land for Life Award’. The UNCCD (UN Convention to Combat Desertification) will announce the winners on June 17 in Ankara, Turkey.
Fr Henry said it was a special recognition for the missionaries who, for over 150 years, dedicate their lives to Africa.
He said: “We must wait now until June 17, World Day to Combat Desertification, to see if we win the award.
“However, whoever is the eventual winner we will celebrate, for each of the eight finalists are dedicated to the restoration of degraded lands in Africa and helping to make the earth sustainable for future generations.”
On Wednesday afternoon (June 12) Caroline Galipeau, Land for Life Programme Coordinator at the Office of the Executive Secretary, UNCCD, contacted Fr Henry with the news.
Ms Galipeau said 2019 marks a “special milestone on the road to a greener planet” as the UNCCD are celebrating their 25th anniversary.
She wrote: “We selected eight impressive finalists who successfully qualify for this year’s theme: ‘Decades of Impact’.”
“Over the past 25 years (and more!), you all contributed to achieve land degradation neutrality on a large-scale, with long-term changes and notable positive impacts on land, people, communities, and society.”
Ms Galipeau made specific mention to the SMA’s Laudato Tree Project, an awareness and fundraising campaign which supports a major initiative to combat desertification in Africa called the ‘Great Green Wall’. “The SMA was instrumental in bringing visibility to the issue of desertification in Ireland and opened an interfaith dialogue around land issues,” she added.
The Great Green Wall initiative was launched in 2007 and aims to restore degraded landscapes and transform millions of lives in one of the world’s poorest regions, the Sahel, by planting greenery across the width of the continent.
Once complete, the wall is expected be the largest living structure on the planet stretching 8,000km.