In 2012 we reported on the beginning of Africa’s Great Green Wall project. Four years on, we explore how planting trees has nurtured communities as well as the land
Since the 1950s, people have dreamt of planting a vast wall of trees to hold back the Sahara desert’s spreading sands.
Over the past decade, that vision has begun to become a reality with 11 sub-Saharan nations joining with the EU, the UN and the African Union to build a ‘Great Green Wall’ that will span the continent – from Senegal in the west to Djibouti in the east.
Since we reported on the Great Green Wall when planting began in 2012, significant progress has been made. In Senegal, 11 million trees have been planted; in Nigeria, 20,000 rural jobs have been created, and in Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger, around two million seeds and seedlings have been planted, restoring 2,500 hectares of land.
The Great Green Wall is about more than just planting and counting trees, it is about building resilience in communities
“Today the Great Green Wall stands as one of the most innovative and daring endeavours in human history,” said African Union spokeswoman Janet Edeme.
It is hoped that the 4,400-mile green belt will halt desertification which could otherwise force an estimated 60 million Africans to leave their homes, sparking mass migrations and even driving people to join extremist groups such as Boko Haram.
“The Great Green Wall is about more than just planting and counting trees, it is about building resilience in communities and developing sustainable projects to give young people reasons to stay,” Camilla Nordheim-Larsen of the UN Convention to Combat Desertification told reporters.
Main image: The shifting sands of the Sahara could be held back, with planting for the Great Green Wall under way. Credit: Cliff Williams