Can the GGW save Africa ?

The vast Sahara desert, as seen from space. Image Source: http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov


The Great Green Wall of Africa-Can it Save the Continent?

By G.P. Thomas


What is Desertification?
History of the Great Green Wall
Issues with the Great Green Wall
Which Countries are involved in the Great Green Wall?
Further Advantages of the Great Green Wall


The Sahara is the most famous desert in the world and is instantly recognisable by its golden sand and giant rolling dunes. Despite its uniform and unvarying appearance, it is thought that the Sahara region is climatically changeable and has the capacity to drastically vary in size and form. For instance, evidence from ancient paintings suggests that during the first ages of human civilisation it was a much wetter, more fertile environment.

The Sahara desert is also the world’s largest desert (excluding the Antarctic). With an area of 9 400 000km2 it covers around 10% of the African continent and is almost as large as China. The major issue today is that it is still growing via desertification.

Though it is not often covered in the press, the growth of the Sahara is a human crisis on a grand scale, with 18 million people in the Sahel region, a semi-arid band just south of the desert, now facing a major food crisis. For example, this year Burkina Faso is facing a 32 000-ton rice shortage as farm land is being destroyed and rainfall is being reduced by the encroaching Sahara.

The answer proposed by a transcontinental group of African nations may seem at first like an idea for a children’s novel, but it may yet be the drastic solution needed to save millions. The group has proposed a giant wall, 15km wide and 8000km long, composed of plants, trees and bushes to stretch across the continent of Africa. It will stretch along the southern border of the Sahara desert in order to attempt to stop desertification of the Sahel area of the country.

It is a grand idea for a grand problem: Around 40% of the entire African continent has now succumbed to desertification and this is increasing year on year. The hope is that this giant hedgerow will trap the Sahara dust and stop its progress into Sub-Saharan regions. Perhaps even returning the Sahara to the more pleasant region depicted in early paintings.

Read the full article: AZO Cleantech

Author: Willem Van Cotthem

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

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