In Niger, a ‘crazy idea’ to restore degraded land pays off

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February 21, 2020, was a day of celebration in Koné Béri, Niger. People gathered in the village for a ceremony 14 years in the making. Some had doubted that a “crazy idea to sell the air,” as local communities referred to the sale of carbon credits generated from their agroforestry plantations, would ever come to fruition.  But on this day, leaders representing 26 rural communities accepted the first carbon credit payment ever made to Niger for reducing emissions.

These communities spanning six regions of the country earned a combined $450,000 for the greenhouse gas sequestered by 7,200 hectares of Acacia Senegal trees. The communities planted the trees on once-abandoned land and nurtured them over 14 years as part of an afforestation agro-forestry project—part of the World Bank’s Community Action Program (known as PAC). The program, now its third and final phase, is the first of its kind in West Africa to earn carbon revenues.

This accomplishment was proudly shared by all of us involved in the project, namely Niger’s Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock, the dynamic Franco-Nigerien agri-business, Achats Service International (ASI), the World Bank and BioCarbon Fund, and over 100,000 men and women of the participating communities whose patience and dedication was a true inspiration.

Back in 2006 when the project launched, villagers were incredulous that someone would pay for the greenhouse gases that their trees could eventually capture. Their scepticism was valid; at that time, carbon offset markets were nascent with no track record of success. The project was a very early pilot that brought the BioCarbon Fund on board to buy carbon credits generated until 2020.

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In Niger, a ‘crazy idea’ to restore degraded land pays off - Brand Spur

Far-fetched or not, project partners embraced the opportunity to reclaim deserted land and try new methods of agroforestry to boost food supplies and incomes in some of the poorest areas of Niger. With consistent PAC training and support, community groups formed and worked together to raise knee-high Acacia Senegal saplings into mature groves.

The trees have yielded not only carbon revenue but many other important benefits.  Acacia Senegal trees were chosen for their soil restoration properties and the Arabic gum they produce. The gum is used as a stabilizer in the food industry and, now, it is a source of income for communities who collect and sell it to ASI for export. As the trees have grown, so too has the vitality of the soil. Communities can now intercrop their trees with food crops like cowpea, groundnut, and millet. Surpluses are sold at local markets. Animal fodder is also being grown to feed local herds. All of this is generating significant income and employment, particularly for women and young people, and helping to reduce the rural exodus currently experienced in Niger.

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In Niger, a ‘crazy idea’ to restore degraded land pays off - Brand Spur

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It is incredible that these once degraded, abandoned drylands now support a variety of sustainable, income-generating activities and reconstituted natural habitats. The project has created microclimates and enabled the appearance of new plant and animal species. When I visited the Tchida project site, I was surrounded by the vibrancy of nature. Birds flew through the greenery and the trees provided much-needed shade from the extreme heat. It contrasted starkly with the surrounding area, sunbaked and brown and in a continuous state of degradation.

After 10 years of diligent care, the plantations had enough volume to embark on the carbon certification process. By 2017, we were deep into it, measuring the diameter and height of trees in project sites across the country, calculating carbon sequestration, and engaging a third party to audit our results. It took two years to complete, but in 2019, the UN issued the carbon credits generated by the project. ASI aggregated and sold these credits to the BioCarbon Fund, and has now distributed the carbon payments to all 26 participating communities based on the size of their plantations.

In Niger, a ‘crazy idea’ to restore degraded land pays off - Brand Spur

Communities are using the money in a number of ways, including to maintain and expand their plantations, purchase agricultural equipment and inputs, rehabilitate water points, provide much-needed supplies for local schools and health posts, lend to women and youth, and the list goes on. It is a double-win on top of the investments provided by PAC.

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At the payment ceremony in Koné Béri, community members noted that the World Bank had supported them all the way to finish line, saying it had not only “taught them to fish” so to speak, but also “provided the fishing net and boat!” The project concludes in 2020, but community groups are well established and will continue cultivating their plantations with ASI as their partner.

In Niger, a ‘crazy idea’ to restore degraded land pays off - Brand Spur

Niger is at the frontline of climate change and desertification—at least 100,000 hectares of agricultural land is lost each year. To help ensure food security, the government seeks to build on successes like this project to restore 3.2 million hectares of degraded land by 2030. Scaled-up investments and partnerships are needed to achieve this ambitious goal. Our pilot experience shows a great deal of time, commitment, and community involvement is needed to sustainably rehabilitate land through afforestation, but these 26 communities proved it is possible…and it can pay off.

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In Niger, a ‘crazy idea’ to restore degraded land pays off - Brand SpurIn Niger, a ‘crazy idea’ to restore degraded land pays off - Brand Spur

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In Niger, a ‘crazy idea’ to restore degraded land pays off - Brand SpurIn Niger, a ‘crazy idea’ to restore degraded land pays off - Brand Spur

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Qatar Airways Launches Ferry Transfer Service from Shenzhen Shekou to Hong Kong International Airport

Qatar Airways introduces Upstream Check-in Service in Shenzhen starting from 15 April 2021 to offer greater connectivity in the Greater Bay Area

Local passengers will have the option to utilise the 30-minutes-long ferry service to fly out of Hong Kong; "Asia's World City" to over 80 destinations in Europe, the Middle East, Africa and the Americas


SHENZHEN & HONG KONG SAR, CHINA - Media OutReach - 12 April 2021 - Qatar Airways today announced the sea-to-air ferry transfer service from Shenzhen Shekou Port to the SkyPier in the airside of Hong Kong International Airport (HKIA) starting from 15 April 2021, providing passengers in the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area (GBA), one of the world's most dynamic mega-regions, convenient access to the airline's global network from "Asia's World City".


In Niger, a ‘crazy idea’ to restore degraded land pays off - Brand Spur

Partnering with Airport Authority Hong Kong, the introduction of the Upstream Check-in Service will allow Qatar Airways customers in Shenzhen greater flexibility and enhanced travel options to the world from Hong Kong, where the airline operates daily direct service to Doha with its modern and fuel-efficient Airbus A350-900 aircraft that features 36 lie-flat seats in Business Class and 247 seats in Economy Class.

Qatar Airways customers can purchase their ferry tickets from SkyLink or the port's website. Passengers utilising the 30-minutes-long ferry service will be provided with boarding passes and baggage check-through service to their final destinations at the Shenzhen Shekou terminal, where they will also clear their customs and immigration. Upon arrival at SkyPier, customers can proceed directly to their Qatar Airways boarding gate, or enjoy the award-winning duty-free shopping experience and fine-dining options at HKIA before continuing a seamless and hassle-free onward journey with the airline to more than 80 destinations in Europe, the Middle East, Africa and the Americas.

Mr. Thomas Scruby, Qatar Airways Vice President of Sales for Australasia & North Asia, said: "The introduction of ferry transfer service will boost our footprint in the Greater Bay Area by providing our Southern Chinese customers more flexible flying options via HKIA. We know connectivity within the region and to the wider world is critical for the success of the GBA. Therefore, we are excited to do our part to build the infrastructure necessary to make it easier and smoother for local customers to travel despite the disruption caused by the pandemic around the world."

"We are confident in the market's demand and our commitment to the region remains resolute. The next phase of our partnership with Airport Authority Hong Kong will see the ferry transfer service to be further expanded to other key GBA metropolis such as Macau and Dongguan once government restrictions are lifted, allowing even more customers in the region to enjoy the world-class experience that Qatar Airways has to offer."

Premium customers opting for the ferry transfer service can continue to enjoy the luxurious on-ground experience at the Plaza Premium Lounge, conveniently located near Gate 1 at the South Departures Hall in Hong Kong International Airport. Passengers will be able to take advantage of the well-furnished environment with comfortable seating, shower rooms, contactless food ordering service, highspeed Wi-Fi and international TV channels. Privilege Club Gold members and above as well as selected oneworld frequent flyers also enjoy access to The Wing located near Gates 1 - 4, the industry-renowned lounge operated by Cathay Pacific, where guests can recharge, relax, and catch up with work before boarding their Qatar Airways flights.

The Greater Bay area is home to many of the nation's leading universities and academic institutions; the ferry transfer service will also provide more travel choices to the area's students wishing to complete their higher-education or exchange programs abroad. International students will be able to enroll in Qatar Airways Student Club and enjoy a wide range of benefits throughout their educational journey, such as special fares, extra baggage allowances, the flexibility to change the dates of their flight, complimentary Super Wi-Fi onboard, and more. For information about Student Club, visit: https://www.qatarairways.com/en/student-club.html

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Qatar Airways continues to expand its network of destinations, offering more flights to international destinations than any other airline. By the middle of summer 2021, Qatar Airways' plans to rebuild its network to more than 140 destinations including 23 in Africa, 14 in the Americas, 43 in Asia-Pacific, 43 in Europe and 19 in Middle East. Many cities will be served with a strong schedule with daily or more frequencies.

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A multiple award-winning airline, Qatar Airways was named 'World's Best Airline' by the 2019 World Airline Awards, managed by the international air transport rating organisation Skytrax. It was also named 'Best Airline in the Middle East', 'World's Best Business Class', and 'Best Business Class Seat', in recognition of its ground-breaking Business Class experience, Qsuite. Qsuite is available on flights to more than 45 destinations including Johannesburg, Frankfurt, New York and Singapore.

About Qatar Airways:

A multiple award-winning airline, Qatar Airways was named 'World's Best Airline' by the 2019 World Airline Awards, managed by international air transport rating organisation Skytrax. It was also named 'Best Airline in the Middle East', 'World's Best Business Class' and 'Best Business Class Seat', in recognition of its ground-breaking Business Class experience, Qsuite. Qatar Airways is the only airline to have been awarded the coveted "Skytrax Airline of the Year" title, which is recognised as the pinnacle of excellence in the airline industry, five times.


Hamad International Airport (HIA), the airline's home and hub, was recently ranked "Third Best Airport in the World", among 550 airports worldwide, by the SKYTRAX World Airport Awards 2020. Rising from fourth position in 2019 to third in 2020, HIA has been steadily rising in the 'World's Best Airports' rankings since the start of its operations in 2014. In addition, HIA was voted the 'Best Airport in the Middle East' for the sixth year in a row and 'Best Staff Service in the Middle East' for the fifth year in a row.


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In Niger, a ‘crazy idea’ to restore degraded land pays off - Brand Spur
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