Africa’s Great Green Wall to stop the spreading Sahara

13 May 2016

Imagine an immense forest spun out along one of the world’s greatest deserts as a coast-to-coast barricade to the spread of the sands. This is the vision of the Great Green Wall of Africa, now a step closer after a recent AU conference.

The plan is to create a living barrier of trees and plants, 14 kilometres wide and running for 7 000 kilometres along the southern border of the Sahara’s Sahel desert. It would pass through 11 countries, beginning at Senegal on the west coast and ending in Djibouti in the east.

The historic first conference on the Great Green Wall for the Sahara and Sahel Initiative (GGWSSI) was held in the Senegalese capital of Dakar from 2 to 7 May 2016, as all role-players came together to find ways to make the vision a reality.

Green Wall Map

The Great Green Wall will stretch from one coastline on the west of Africa all to the way to the east, covering 7 000 kilometres. (Image: Screengrab via YouTube, TerrAfrica)

The aim is to push back at land degradation and desertification in the Sahel and Sahara. Increased vegetation will also boost food security and help local communities to adapt to climate change, according to the GGWSSI.

These videos explain the project:

The conference follows the recent Global Climate Summit in Paris, where leaders and partners pledged $4-billion (about R60-billion) to the Great Green Wall over the next five years.

Watch Time Magazine’s coverage:

“The Great Green Wall Initiative generates a great operational platform for responding to the development conundrum of African dry lands,” said Jamal Saghir, an advisor on Africa at the World Bank.

The bank is increasing support for African initiatives to build resilience against climate change, he said.

Progress

The AU started this pan-African project in 2007.

“A decade after the initiative started, today the Great Green Wall stands as one of the most innovative and daring endeavours in human history, a real world wonder,” said Dr Janet Edeme, an AU agricultural expert.

Since 2007, significant strides have been made. Senegal has planted more than 11-million trees, Nigeria has created 20 000 jobs in rural areas and Ethiopia has restored 15-million hectares of degraded land.

Benefits of the Great Green Wall

The many potential benefits of the Great Green Wall include increasing food security, creating jobs and improving farmlands. (Image: Design Week, UK, Venture Three)

The conference

“With increased challenges of climate change, the need for appropriate risk management strategies should be emphasised,” said Bukar Tijani, Africa representative of the Food and Agriculture Organisation.

“Youth employment and inclusive growth, including women empowerment, are critical, particularly in light of urbanisation and migration and the dividend that can accrue to Africa from its growing youthful population.”

At the conference, partners refined a roadmap to implement the Paris pledges to boost livelihood opportunities for local communities and establish greater resilience against climate change. At the end of the first day, ministers affirmed their commitment to implementation in the Dakar Declaration.

The Great Green Wall is a collaboration between the AU and international partners such as the Permanent Inter-State Committee for Drought Control in the Sahel, the EU, the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States, the UN’s FAO, the Global Environment Facility, the UN Convention to Combat Desertification, the International Union for Conservation of Nature, the Sahara and Sahel Observatory, and the World Bank.

SouthAfrica.info reporter