“If we want to win this battle, we need to work with the local population” (FAO)

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Building the African green wall, piece by piece

Great Green Wall initiative
Endorsed in 2007 by African Heads of State and Government, the Great Green Wall for the Sahara and the Sahel Initiative aims to tackle the detrimental social, economic and environmental impact of land degradation and desertification in the Sahelo-Saharan region. The initiative supports local communities in the sustainable management and use of forests, rangelands and other natural resources in drylands. It also seeks to contribute to climate change mitigation and adaptation, as well improve the food security and livelihoods of the people in the Sahel and the Sahara.

Halting land degradation in Niger helps to tackle African desertification

When village people and local authorities in southern Niger won back over one hundred hectares of degraded land, they added one extra piece to a mosaic being laid across the Sahel and the Sahara aimed at tackling desertification and land degradation.

Ibrahim Dan Ladi, a 47-year-old farmer from southern Niger, remembers that his village of Kouloumboutey used to be surrounded by thick forest.

The trees protected the villagers against the  wind, and their leaves and undergrowth provided good fodder for the animals.

But the trees started to disappear with El Bouhari, the great famine of 1984-1985, which was caused by drought.

“Overgrazing and excessive felling did the rest to transform a forest into an area of barren land,”  says commander Sidi Sani of Niger’s service for the environment and the fight against desertification.

Without the protection of trees and grasses, soil easily becomes a “glacis” – a  thin cover of arable land at the mercy of wind and rain.

Working together

But land degradation can be stopped and precious soil be restored as the example of Kouloumboutey shows. Since last year, the community and Sidi Sani’s service have joined forces to put an end to land degradation around their village.

Together, they identified the areas to be restored, as well as the vegetation to be planted, so there would be trees and herbage, where the animals can feed themselves.

The villagers constructed bench terraces to stop water from running off and planted grass and trees to prevent the wind from carrying soil particles away.



An African partnership to tackle desertification and land degradation


Arid zone forests and forestry



Published by

Willem Van Cotthem

Honorary Professor of Botany, University of Ghent (Belgium). Scientific Consultant for Desertification and Sustainable Development.