http://thumbs.media.smithsonianmag.com//filer/cc/54/cc548adc-0071-4dab-93c8-05a8887d8a07/aerial_view_of_agroforestry_management_2004_niger_usgs.jpg__800x450_q85_crop_upscale.jpg

GGW, a simple plan to combat a complex problem. There were just a few problems.

 

Photo credit: Smithsonian

An aerial view of agroforestry management practices in Niger in 2004. (USGS)

The “Great Green Wall” Didn’t Stop Desertification, but it Evolved Into Something That Might

The multibillion-dollar effort to plant a 4,000-mile-long wall of trees hit some snags along the way, but there’s still hope

SMITHSONIAN.COM
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Women spend less time retrieving firewood when trees are nearer to their land. (Chris Reij) – http://thumbs.media.smithsonianmag.com//filer/5e/ee/5eeeca66-3d77-456e-8a4f-323c19204544/africa_firewood.jpg__800x450_q85_crop_upscale.jpg

IT was a simple plan to combat a complex problem. The plan: plant a Great Green Wall of trees 10 miles wide and 4,350 miles long, bisecting a dozen countries from Senegal in the west to Djibouti in the east. The problem: the creeping desertification across Africa.

“The desert is a spreading cancer,” Abdoulaye Wade, Senegal’s president and the wall’s standard bearer, said. “We must fight it. That is why we have decided to join in this titanic battle.”

There were just a few problems.

Planting trees across the Sahel, the arid savanna on the south border of the Sahara Desert, had no chance to succeed. There was little funding. There was no science suggesting it would work. Moreover, the desert was not actually moving south; instead, overuse was denuding the land. Large chunks of the proposed “wall” were uninhabited, meaning no one would be there to care for the saplings.

Read the full article: Smithsonian

Published by

Willem Van Cotthem

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