“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

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

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

And at the end of yesterday …


Photo credit: FAO

More investment crucial to upscale Great Green Wall initiative

High-level event on Africa’s response to climate change and zero hunger challenge

During a high-level event on the Great Green Wall initiative, leaders of African countries called for increased investment in combatting desertification and land degradation to improve the lives of the people of Africa’s drylands.

“FAO is committed to scaling up support to the Great Green Wall initiative,” said José Graziano Da Silva, FAO’s Director-General of FAO. “It offers hope for prosperity and well-being to the local communities at the heart of our efforts.”

Brah Mahamat, Minister for Environment, Water & Fisheries from Chad, speaking on behalf of the African Union that leads the initiative, emphasized the epic ambitions of Africa’s flagship rural development programme. “The Great Green Wall is one of the most audacious efforts in human history,” he said.

Yet the challenges of climate change and land degradation are equally formidable, ministers and senior representatives from Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Mauritania, Nigeria, Senegal and Sudan noted. Great Green Wall countries are faced with conflict, migration, poverty and hunger.

“There is light at the end of the tunnel,” said Amina Mohammed, Nigerian Minister of Environment, who lauded the merits of the initiative. “In spite of all odds, it is an initiative of solidarity, it is about a family of countries across the Sahel and the Sahara that are taking collective responsibility.”

To bolster its support to the initiative, FAO builds on recommendations of the recent International Great Green Wall Conference in Dakar and a roadmap for the upcoming Climate Change Conference in Marrakech, said René Castro, FAO’s Assistant Director-General for Forestry.

But the task ahead is daunting, he warned. To rehabilitate ten per cent of the total area around the Sahara desert affected by desertification, estimated at 600 million hectares would require an investment of about USD 143 billion.

“We need to think big and see big,” said FAO’s Deputy Director General Maria Helena Semedo in her closing remarks. “It’s time to scale-up.”

Will they choose best practices to grow their own food or a free cell phone ?


Photocredit: DE STANDAARD Oct.30-Nov.01, 2010

From hunger, via best practices to produce fresh food, to ICT

by Prof. Dr. Willem VAN COTTHEM

(Ghent University, Belgium)


All over the world people are starting container gardening at home to react upon the high food prices and/or, in the drylands, upon the effects of drought and desertification.  Growing vegetables and herbs at home is nowadays so widely spread, that one can only admit that this is one of the best practices to combat hunger and malnutrition.

I therefore wonder what would be the answer of the African, Asian or South African (female) farmers if they would have the choice between a starting kit for container gardening or a cell phone, “the modern ICT challenge for poor farmers at the global level”.

Shall we first invest in ICT or give priority to local production of food for all those hungry families ?  Shall we opt for spending billions in new ICT technologies for malnourished children or shall we first offer them a chance to grow their own vitamins and minerals at school and at home, instead of providing ICT access?

Here are facts, not hopes or speculations: many success stories of container gardening are well known at the universal level, even in the poorest parts of the world, and the best practises are affordable by any poor family. Even for reforestation programmes, like the Great Green Wall in Africa (GGW), production of saplings in containers can lead to successes of survival rate with a minimum of water and thus accelerate the progress of this nice initiative.

Shall the farmers of today get a free cell phone, a free rechargeable battery, never an invoice for the use of their cell phone ?  Or shall they be enabled to pay for it ? To whom ?

Even if “ICT helps in the monitoring of crop growth, utilization of new techniques, field management and harvests” (FAO’s Director General Graziano da Silva, see former posting), priority should be given to the cheapest, but most effective way to create food security for the millions of hungry people on all continents, and that is CONTAINER GARDENING.

I keep wondering where the decision makers are heading to !

At this very moment I receive this message on my Facebook page ‘Container gardening and vertical gardening)::

Something that weighs heavy on my heart… I read all these posts where people in America are dying of starvation and the vast majority are underprivileged children.What makes me just … crazy … is that there are free(ish) resources to help. We could have every single school working on a garden program and giving kids food. We could be legislating that all yards could be, should be gardens. We could be and should be legislating that all of the trees planted for city “beauty” be it parks or just sidewalks, be fruit bearing trees. But how do we go about doing this? I’d so much rather see people picking apples or tomatoes to eat than see them bone skinny and miserable – thinking the only way to get ahead is to lie and steal. Am I the only one that bears this weight?

The GGW to plant a forest of trees 15km wide, snaking from Senegal to Djibouti


Photo credit: ISS Africa

Commanding the Sahara to retreat

The blueprint for the Great Green Wall is nothing if not ambitious. Quite Canute-like, it would seem.

The aim is to plant a forest of trees about 15km wide, snaking some 7 775km from Senegal on the Atlantic to Djibouti on the Red Sea – crossing another nine Sahelian states on the way – to halt the southward march of the Sahara into the Sahel. This elongated forest would cover about 11 662 500 hectares.

The idea was originally conceived by Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo in 2005 and enthusiastically embraced by Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade. In 2007, the African Union Commission (AUC) took it up as the Great Green Wall for the Sahara and Sahel Initiative (GGWSSI). Obasanjo seems to have borrowed the idea from China, yet the Chinese precedent is not entirely encouraging. Its bricks and mortar equivalent failed to keep out the Mongolian hordes from the north in the 13th century. And China’s Great Green Wall – launched in 1978 with the aim of creating a forest of trees 4 500km long – has also not stopped the southward drift of the Gobi and other deserts, despite the planting of about 70 billion trees to date.

In a 2012 paper published by the Comité Scientifique Français de la Désertification, a group of 13 French desertification scientists suggested that the notion of Africa’s Great Green Wall, at least in its original form, is based on several basic misconceptions. The first was that ‘the desert is a disease… that spreads into surrounding areas.’ In reality, the Sahara ‘is actually a healthy and precious ecosystem,’ they said.

The second misconception was that ‘the Sahel is being invaded by a sand sea.’ Though the Sahara’s sands do move around, such movements are local and manageable – and they are not always southwards, they said. ‘This is not a continent-wide movement trend that should be halted like an invader.’ The desertification of the Sahel is not caused by the invasion of sand from the Sahara. Instead it is the result land degradation caused by low rainfall, population concentration and poor agricultural practices, mainly over-exploitation.

The third misconception was that ‘a great forest wall could be planted in uninhabited or sparsely inhabited regions.’ Instead, the GGW would have to ‘pass through inhabited regions where agriculture and livestock farming are already fully developed,’ they said. Local inhabitants would have to be involved in the effort to combat desertification by tree planting. So, no unbroken wall of trees from west to east, but only in areas already inhabited where, indeed, there would be people present to plant and tend them.

But the GGW should be about much more than just planting trees, they wrote. It should also include integrated development of economically useful drought-tolerant plant species, building water-retention ponds, establishing agricultural production systems and other income-generating activities, as well as basic social infrastructures.

Read the full article : ISS Africa

Women and sack gardening


Photo credit: Takepart

Residents of the Kibera slum in Kenya tend to vegetables planted in sack gardens. (Photo: Tony Karumba/Getty Images)


Across Africa, a New Kind of Container Garden Is Changing Women’s Lives

Growing food in sacks uses fewer resources and less labor and provides high yields too.

by Sarah McColl sarahmccolltpbp

Some people have the talent to take a simple idea and adapt it into a solution with far-reaching benefits. Take Veronica Kanyango of Zimbabwe, a grassroots organizer who works in home-based health care and hospice for people with HIV/AIDS. She’s managed to take a couple of bags full or dirt and turn them into an agrarian movement.

“You show her a sack garden, and she’s turned it into a network of women who are producing lettuce and tomatoes for the Marriott hotel,” said Regina Pritchett of theHuairou Commission, a nonprofit that works on housing and community issues for women across Africa.

Using bags of the sort you stuffed yourself in for a race on field day—which are filled with manure, soil, and gravel—sack gardening or farming has been successfully adopted in areas of Africa where agriculture faces distinctly different challenges. It’s proved an effective way to grow food in regions with drought as well as areas prone to flooding, in rural communities and in urban slums. At the Grassroots Academy coordinated by the Huairou Commission in the spring of 2014, Pritchett said, the concept exploded.

The GGW (2005-2016)



Africa’s Building a Wall That’s Actually Worth Building


Though a border wall with Mexico is currently a matter of serious discussion in the United States, the aim of which is to prevent the physical movement of people (with few other apparent “benefits”), some walls can actually bring together and preserve communities, rather than divide them.

In only five years, the UN says, around 60 million Africans may be displaced as their land ceases to be arable, a potential humanitarian disaster the scale of which would be unprecedented. This would be devastating to a huge portion of the African continent not only ecologically and economically but socially as well.

That’s where Africa’s ingenious Great Green Wall comes in.

Experts at the United Nations say without action, desertification may claim two-thirds of Africa’s farmlands in under a decade. The Great Green Wall, however, was conceived as a wide-reaching strategy to halt Northern Africa’s rapidly advancing Sahara Desert.

The Great Green Wall, once complete, will stretch an incredible 4,400 miles from Senegal in West Africa to the East African nation of Djibouti. Instead of bricks and mortar, the wall will be made of trees and other vegetation, including plants that can be eaten or used to create medicine.

Originally proposed in 2005 by Nigeria and adopted by the African Union in 2007, the massive undertaking is now approximately 15 percent complete. So far, Senegal has done the most to lead the initiative, however villages in Niger, Mali and Burkina Faso have made contributions as well.

Read the full article: Care2

La réhabilitation du Barrage vert



Relance du projet de Barrage vert : Les critères du développement durable

Le secteur de l’agriculture va relancer le projet de réhabilitation du Barrage vert en intégrant les nouveaux préceptes liés au développement durable, à la lutte contre la désertification et l’adaptation  aux changements climatiques. “La désertification est un problème des plus préoccupants, aggravée par les changements climatiques. Elle menace la totalité des écosystèmes naturels par la réduction du potentiel biologique et la rupture des équilibres écologiques et socioéconomiques”, relèvent les spécialistes.

“C’est dans cette perspective que le ministère a inscrit la relance du projet de grande envergure qu’est le Barrage vert, selon les nouveaux préceptes liant le développement durable, la lutte contre la désertification et l’adaptation aux changements climatiques”, indique le ministère dans une note d’information.  C’est dans ce sens qu’une journée d’étude sur le Barrage vert, se tiendra dimanche à Boussaâda (wilaya de M’Sila) à l’occasion du 45e anniversaire de son lancement, pour faire le bilan de ce rempart réalisé entre 1970 et 1980 afin de faire face à l’avancée du désert et de discuter des perspectives du  projet de sa réhabilitation.

En guise d’élaboration d’un plan d’action permettant la protection et la réhabilitation de cet ouvrage, le ministère a confié au Bureau national d’études du développement rural (Bneder) la réalisation d’une étude portant sur sa réhabilitation et son extension. L’étude vise à “appréhender les menaces qui pèsent sur le Barrage vert, à évaluer les impacts environnementaux et sociaux de cet investissement, analyser l’apport des différents programmes de lutte contre la désertification qui y ont été menés et proposer un plan d’action opérationnel permettant la reprise et l’extension de l’ouvrage moyennant une stratégie adaptée au contexte économique, social et écologique qu’impose la réalité d’aujourd’hui”, selon le ministère. Les principales actions visées par ce plan d’action sont l’extension de la zone du barrage vert sur plus de 1,7 millions hectares (ha) au niveau de 10 wilayas. Il s’agit aussi de la réhabilitation des plantations sur plus de 159.000 ha, de l’extension forestière et dunaire sur plus de 287.000 ha, de la réalisation de bandes vertes routières sur 26.000 ha, l’extension agropastorale sur plus de 1,8 millions ha, l’aménagement et développement forestier sur plus de 295.000 ha.

Voir l’article entier: El Moudjahid

The GGW (2005): Around 15 percent of the wall of trees has been planted, mainly in Senegal.



Africa’s Great Green Wall could halt youth migration, extremism: experts

A strong political will behind the GGW project (2006) and an urgency to get it moving.


Photo credit: Big News Network

African Leaders Tackle Desertification to Counter Poverty, Insecurity


The African Union is holding the first ever international conference on the Great Green Wall in Dakar this week. The goal is to map out a strategy to stop desertification in the Sahel-Sahara region, which experts say is driving poverty and insecurity.

At the climate change summit in Paris in December, world leaders pledged $4 billion over the next five years for the restoration of Africa’s landscapes. That included support for the so-called Great Green Wall initiative. Now, delegates from 20 countries north and south of the Sahara are meeting with experts and grassroots organizations in Dakar to discuss the way forward.

Speaking Tuesday at the opening of the conference, Senegal Minister of Environment Abdoulaye Bibi Balde explained the idea behind the Great Green Wall strategy.

He said the Great Green Wall is about much more than simply building a band of greenery. He said it is a strategy to increase the value of the Sahara-Sahel zone through better land use.

The Great Green Wall concept was first proposed in 2005. It was then championed by former Senegalese president Abdoulaye Wade.

Success stories about food crops and drought-resistant plants





by Prof. Dr. Willem Van Cotthem (Ghent University, Belgium)

Please read this article at:


Planned GGW: 4,750 miles long and 9 miles wide – 330 miles of greenery planted – pledged over $3 billion




An Environmental Protection Project of Unprecedented Scale in Africa

By Dylan Thuras

Clocking in 4,750 miles long and 9 miles wide, the Great Green Wall of Africa is as ambitious as it is necessary.


While only 330 miles of greenery have currently been planted in northern Senegal, international organizations have pledged over $3 billion toward the completion of this massive environmental project, designed to help stop land degradation. But the Great Green Wall is about more than just protection from desertification. Thousands of jobs, increased environmental diversity, land management research, and tourists drawn to visit the planned forest are all additional benefits.


The successful growth of the Great Green Wall won’t just benefit the local region, it will have an impact on the entire African continent and beyond, stabilizing an unstable region, and helping fight the effects of climate change on a global scale.

%d bloggers like this: