A plan to change the barren landscape across the width of Africa seems far-fetched but it is real, and it has achieved some success. It’s called the Great Green Wall and is an expanse of land approximately 30 miles wide and 4,350 miles long. 21 countries participate in the project that stretches from Senegal in the west to Djibouti in the east.
It all started about 10 years ago when African nations met to discuss the growing threat of deserts moving down from the north, growing and spreading. Many of these countries have long been plagued by drought, violence, climate change, and food insecurity. The Sahel region on the southern edge of the Sahara Desert was one of the most devasted areas on earth.
So the idea was hatched to transform this barren landscape with an area of trees, where plants and crops could grow, animals graze and people could live on the land harvesting the crops. But where and how to start? There was no science that said it could work. Land with no trees will not hold soil that turns to sand and blows away in the wind.
Chris Reij, a land management specialist working with the World Resource Institute, was given the task of solving this problem. He met with little success until one time, flying over the intended course of the wall, he looked down to see fertile, green areas. He discovered that local farmers had developed a solution first introduced earlier by Tony Rinando, an Australian with Serving in Mission who had worked in the area with local people. Word of mouth spread the idea of protecting any remaining trees or stumps until they sprouted and creating water harvesting practices. No one knew of the success because previously, no one had looked.
To date over 5 million trees have been planted in Burkino Faso and 11 million in Senegal. Nigeria has restored 12 million acres and Ethiopia 37 million acres.
15% of the wall has been completed. There’s much more to do but if they can achieve success, this Great Green Wall will create jobs and food for millions of people and also help save the earth by absorbing CO2 from the atmosphere.