The ‘Great Green Wall’ Of Africa: An Ambitious Plan To Beat Back The Sahara Desert

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Written by Kevin Mwanza

Some 11 African countries are making headway in their ambitious pan-African effort to plant trees along the edge of the Sahara desert, the world largest, and beat back its spread into more arable land southwards.

The plan dubbed the ‘Great Green Wall’ seeks to counter the spread of Sahara Desert in Africa was launched in 2007 and was estimated to cost more than $2 billion up to completion.

It has already made considerable step with several nations involved in the intitiative, including Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Sudan, Chad, Niger, Nigeria, Mali, Burkina Faso, Mauritania, and Senegal, experiencing environmental and employment boom.

In Senegal, 11 million trees have been planted while in neighboring Nigeria, the project has created 20,000 jobs in rural parts of the West African nation, Positive.News reported.

At least two million seedlings have been planted in Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger, leading to restoration of 2,500 hectares of land.

The project will save at least 60 million people from leaving their homesteads, and social implications of the displacement such as joining extremist groups in the region, such as Boko Haram.

“The Great Green Wall is about more than just planting trees, it is about building resilience in communities and developing sustainable projects to give young people reasons to stay, Camilla Nordheim-Larsen of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification told reporters.

African Union (AU) started the project, which is a 7,775 kilometers long and 15 kilometers wide strip of trees across the Sahara and Sahel regions. It is aimed at boosting food security, combat land degradation due to desertification and support communities to adapt to the climatic changes in the region, Quartz Africa reported.

Olusegun Obasanjo, former president of Nigeria, proposed the idea in 2005 and the continental body took up the project two years later.

In January, the European Union (EU) committed 20 million Euros towards the project.

The Great Green Wall is a major measure to fight adverse climatic patterns that have exposed the continent to desertification, leading to drastic loss of agriculturally arable land.

Africa loses an estimated 20,000 hectares of land to desertification annually and about 319 hectares of land are vulnerable to the adverse climatic condition, according to DownToEarth.

About 65 percent of the continent is dry land and one-third of this area is completely un-inhabited.

Some of the partners in the project are facing a drought crisis mainly due to the desertification effects.

Ethiopia is currently facing its worst drought in 50 years with at least 10 million people in dire need of food aid.

In Eritrea, a severe drought due to floods and failed rains has swept across the nation, leaving millions of people faced with starvation.