The Great Green Wall
Sahel-Sahara project aims to combat land degradation
By Ryan Schleeter
In Africa, scientists are hard at work restoring land once rich with biodiversity
. Eleven countries in the Sahel
-Sahara region—Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Sudan, Chad, Niger, Nigeria, Mali, Burkina Faso, Mauritania, and Senegal—have joined to combat
land degradation and restore
native plant life to the landscape.
In recent years, northern Africa has seen the quality ofarable
land decline significant
ly due to climate change
and poor land management. Uniting under the banner of the “Great Green Wall” initiative
, national and regional leaders hope to reverse this trend. The bulk of the work on the ground was originally slate
d to be concentrated
along a stretch of land from Djibouti, Djibouti, in the east to Dakar, Senegal, in the west—an expanse 15 kilometers (9 miles) wide and 7,775 kilometers (4,831 miles) long. The project has since expand
ed to include countries in both northern and western Africa.
typically stems from both human-related and natural factors; overfarming, overgrazing
, climate change, and extreme weather are the most common causes. Beyond affecting land and the natural environment, land degradation poses serious threats to agricultural productivity, food security
, and quality of life. Nowhere is this issue more urgent than in sub-Saharan Africa, where an estimated 500 million people live on land undergoing desertification
, the most extreme form of land degradation.
Jean-Marc Sinnassamy is a senior environmental specialist with the Global Environment Facility (GEF). He helps manage a program developed under the Great Green Wall initiative with countries in the Sahel and West Africa. The GEF has been with the initiative since the beginning, helping to convene
country leaders at the headquarters of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification in Bonn, Germany, in February 2011. The World Bank and other organizations focused on global development
and the environment provide financial
and technical support.
For Sinnassamy, the partnership represents a unique opportunity to work across the region with a solid political base.