In order to combat climate change and desertification, the African Union is spearheading the Great Green Wall initiative. By creating a stretch of flourishing landscapes across the northern part of the Continent through the Sahel and the Horn, the Great Green Wall will have a monumental impact on the lives of millions of Africans.
In addition to protecting and strengthening the ecosystem and the health of natural resources, the initiative will also improve food security and even create jobs. By creating jobs and fostering peace in regions full of conflict, the Great Green Wall is also hoping to grow a reason to stay for the millions planning to migrate to Europe. The Great Green Wall might even be a way to fight terrorism.
The project is nothing if not ambitious. The goal is to grow an 8,000-km long stretch of trees and other vegetation. According to the Great Green Wall website, when completed it will be the “largest living structure on Earth and a new Wonder of the World.”
All the way back in 1952, environmental activist and forester Richard St. Barbe Baker suggested growing a front-line of trees 30 miles deep to contain the desert. This idea was reconsidered in 2002 on the World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought. In 2005, the Conference of Leaders and Heads of States members of the Community of Sahel-Saharan States approved moving forward with the idea. In 2007, the African Heads of State and Government officially endorsed the idea for the Great Green Wall. Eleven African countries (Burkina Faso, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sudan and Chad) joined together to create the Panafrican Agency of the Great Green Wall. Today, more than 20 countries from the Sahelo-Saharan region are involved in the project. Dozens of organizations in Africa and around the world are also supporting the project, including The World Bank and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.
The project is still in its infancy but there has already been some very promising progress. According to Elvis Paul Tangam, the African Union Commissioner for the Sahara and Sahel Great Green Wall Initiative, around 15 percent of the planned trees have already been planted. Senegal has been leading the way, with over 75,000 acres of trees planted already in 2015. Senegal’s efforts have also meant 400 people are employed in eight nurseries, according to the New York Times.
A project of this scope requires a lot of funding. The UN has secured billions for the project. The World Bank has pledged $1.9 billion. Individual countries are also donating to the cause.
To see the Great Green Wall and to learn more about this inspiring project, check out this stunning virtual reality film.