The Green Wall that is Transforming Communities

One of the laudable plans of Africa to combat climate change is The Great Green Wall tree planting program. According to the Nigerian Ministry of Environment, the Great Green Wall is “ a Pan-African initiative created to tackle land degradation and desertification, increase food security and support communities to adapt to climate change in the Sahel-Sahara region of Africa”. Launched in 2007, the project spans countries like Senegal, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Mali, Sudan, and Chad etc. At 8,000km, it is poised to become a natural wonder of the world, three times the size of the Great Barrier Cliff when completed. It will bring life back to areas affected by desertification. Currently, only 15% of the project is completed but so far it has provided jobs, food security, stability and it is helping to stop mass migration away from the affected areas.

Desertification is a problem in the Sahel-Sahara. There is already less rainfall, poor soil fertility and overgrazing making the land no longer able to support crops, livestock, and wildlife. In fact, the Sahara desert is said to have grown by 10 percent since 1920 and Lake Chad has shrunk due to desertification and lack of rainfall. The decision to plant drought-resistant trees from Dakar to Djibouti was a way for communities to reclaim their land. Owning to the cheap and effective way the farmers discovered to plant trees, what was deemed impossible to re-green the area was made possible.

The project has brought life back into these areas. Communities are thriving and there is less need to migrate. For these communities, the trees planted were for their survival and livelihood. Due to these trees, carbon is being absorbed back into the soil, there is work for villagers and countries are reclaiming land from the desert. Ethiopia has restored 15 million hectares of land, Niger has reclaimed 5 million hectares and produces grain to feed 2.5 million people, and Nigeria has restored 12 million hectares of degraded land.

From a budget of 8 billion dollars, the project has proven to be money efficient and only 1.4 Billion dollars has been spent so far. The initiative hopes to restore 100 million hectares of land by 2030, create 350,000 jobs and absorb 250 million tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Its present execution has proven so successful that other countries suffering desertification, are looking to walk in the footsteps of the Great Green Wall by building their own wall. For example, India plans to build a 1600km long and 5 km wide Great Green Wall in the Aravali range as it is planning to plant about 1.3 billion new trees.

The wall proves that as humans we can come together to solve challenging world problems and there is hope that we can leave a better planet to our descendants. It is hailed as a symbol of hope that we can fight the harsh natural environment and create a more sustainable environment to live in. If we continually work to combat these adverse effects in nature, we will be able to build a sustainable environment.

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