“Great Green Wall” to beat back the Sahara desert

In this Tuesday, May 11, 2010 photo, a sandstorm engulfs Fulani herdsmen near their temporary settlement in Gadabeji, Niger. At this time of year, the Gadabeji Reserve should be a refuge for the nomadic tribes who travel across the moonscape deserts of Niger to graze their cattle. But the grass is meager, not enough even for the small goats, after a drought killed off the last year's crops. International aid groups once again warn this nation of 15 million on the verge of the Sahara Desert faces a growing food crisis.

Desertification is a real problem in sub-Saharan Africa. (AP/Sunday Alamba)

African countries are building a “Great Green Wall” to beat back the Sahara desert

by Omar Mohammed

Eleven African countries are moving ahead with an ambitious pan-African effort in the Sahel-Saharan region of the continent to protect arable land from the encroaching Sahara desert—by planting trees.

The countries—Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Sudan, Chad, Niger, Nigeria, Mali, Burkina Faso, Mauritania, and Senegal—came together in 2007 to execute the $2 billion dollar project to arrest the creeping desertification in the region. The 15 kilometers (9 miles) wide and 7,775 kilometers (4,831 miles) long tree wall will stretch all the way from Senegal in west Africa to Djibouti in the east.


The Great Green Wall. (Green Wall Initiative via AP)

Desertification is a growing problem in sub-Saharan Africa. Estimates suggestthat 40% of the region’s land has been impacted, exposing over 500 millionpeople to devastating shifts in their environment and general livelihoods. These have included land erosion and decreasing rains that have subsequently crippled agriculture, exposed communities to health risks that come with increasing sandstorms and food shortages. The resulting insecurity has also contributed to the rise in extremism in parts of West Africa, someanalysts contend.

Read the full story: Quartz

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Willem Van Cotthem

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