The Great Green Wall of the Sahara

Ever heard of the Great Green Wall?

Concerns about the rapid southern spread of the Sahara desert have prompted African nations to build a wall – out of trees.

The Sahara has been moving south at a rate of almost a square kilometer a year, consuming villages and wiping out agricultural lands. Slowing the desertification has become a huge priority — and a huge community effort.

International aid groups are helping build community gardens, institute new irrigation techniques, and teach sustainable farming. Projects are especially successful in the areas of the Sahara, like northern Burkina Faso, where new farming techniques are taking advantage of increased rainfall due to climate change.

The biggest project to date is the Green Wall for the Sahara Initiative. The $3-million, two-year initial phase will plant a belt of trees 7,000-kilometers long and 15 kilometers wide, and was formally approved at the Community of the Sahel-Saharan States in Benin last month.

The African Union says future phases will plant trees from Mauritania to Djibouti in two parallel belts, creating a strip of protected topsoil for high-yield farming. Nigeria has launched its own complimentary Desert-to-Food Program.

The AU hopes the Green Wall Initiative will arrest soil degradation, reduce poverty, conserve biodiversity, and increase land productivity in more than 25 countries. Others hope the project will create millions of jobs, promote ecotourism, alleviate the food crisis, and even introduce new fishing and livestock-breeding industries.

Who would have thought a wall of trees could have such a big impact?

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