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The Great Green Wall or Great Green Wall of the Sahara and the Sahel (French: Grande Muraille Verte pour le Sahara et le Sahel) is Africa's flagship initiative to combat increasing desertification. Led by the African Union, the initiative aims to transform the lives of millions of people by creating a mosaic of green and productive landscapes across North Africa.
From the initial idea of a line of trees from east to west bordering the Saharan Desert, the vision of a Great Green Wall has evolved into that of a mosaic of interventions addressing the challenges facing the people in the Sahel and the Sahara. As a programming tool for rural development, the overall goal of this partnership is to strengthen regional resilience and natural systems with sound ecosystem management, protection of rural heritage, and improved living conditions.
The project is a response to the combined effect of natural resources degradation and drought in rural areas. It is a partnership that supports communities working towards sustainable management and use of forests, rangelands and other natural resources. It seeks to help communities mitigate and adapt to climate change, as well as improve food security. The population of the Sahel is expected to double by 2039, adding urgency to the project.
In 1950s the British explorer Richard St. Barbe Baker made an expedition in the Sahara. During St. Barbe's 40,000-kilometre (25,000 mi) expedition he proposed a "Green front" to act as a 50-kilometre-deep (30 mi) tree buffer to contain the expanding desert. The idea re-emerged in 2002, at the special summit in N'Djamena, the capital of Chad on the occasion of World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought. It was approved by the Conference of Leaders and Heads of States members of the Community of Sahel-Saharan States during their seventh ordinary session held in Ouagadougou in the capital of Burkina Faso on 1–2 June 2005. The African Union endorsed it in 2007 as the ‘Great Green Wall for the Sahara and the Sahel Initiative’ (GGWSSI).
Lessons learnt from the Algerian Green Dam and the Green Wall of China led to an integrated multi-sectoral approach. Originally a tree planting initiative, the project evolved into a development programming tool. In 2007, CHSG directed the project to tackle the social, economic and environmental impacts of land degradation and desertification. The countries Burkina Faso, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sudan and Chad thereafter created the Panafrican Agency of the Great Green Wall (PAGGW).
A harmonised regional strategy was adopted in September 2012 by the African Ministerial Conference on Environment (AMCEN). According to AMCEN, the Great Green Wall is a flagship program that will contribute to the goal of the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, or RIO+20, of "a land degradation neutral world".
In 2014, the European Union and the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, in collaboration with African and other regional partners, launched the Action Against Desertification program to build on the GGWSSI. Nigeria created an interim agency to support GGW development.
Drylands Monitoring Week (2015) assessed the state of dryland measurement and initiated collaboration toward large-scale, comprehensive monitoring.
Bare land restoration has been successfully demonstrated in Burkina Faso, although security is an issue in the face of terrorist activity.
The Initiative brings together more than 20 countries, including Algeria, Burkina Faso, Benin, Chad, Cape Verde, Djibouti, Egypt, Ethiopia, Libya, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Somalia, Sudan, The Gambia and Tunisia.
Regional and international partners include:
The GGWSSI intends to strengthen existing mechanisms (such as Comprehensive African Agricultural Development Program, Environmental Program (CAADP) of NEPAD, regional, sub-regional, and national action programmes to combat desertification) to improve their efficiency through synergy and coordination activities.
The Regional Harmonised Strategy emphasizes partnerships between stakeholders, integration into existing programmes, sharing of lessons learnt (especially through South-South cooperation and technology transfer), local participation and ownership of actions and developing more integrated and global planning.
The $8-billion project intends to restore 100 million hectares (250 million acres; 1 million km²) of degraded land by 2030, which would create 350,000 rural jobs and absorb 250 million tonnes (250 million long tons; 280 million short tons) of CO
2 from the atmosphere.
Since 2014, the eco-friendly search engine Ecosia has been partnered with the local population in Burkina Faso. Ecosia spread its campaign to Ethiopia in 2017 and to Senegal the following year. According to Ecosia, it has planted over 16,940,947 trees and 12,384 ha (30,600 acres) were restored in Burkina Faso; in Senegal it planted over 1,424,748 and restored 300 ha (740 acres) and planted over 3,963,273 trees and restored 1,600 ha (4,000 acres) in Ethiopia as of 2 July 2020.
In September 2017, the BBC reported that progress was best in Senegal. As of March 2019, 15 per cent of the wall is complete with significant gains made in Nigeria, Senegal and Ethiopia. In Senegal, over 11 million trees had been planted. Nigeria has restored 4.9 million ha (12 million acres; 49,000 km²) of degraded land and Ethiopia has reclaimed 15 million ha (37 million acres; 150,000 km²). In September 2020 it was reported that the Great Green Wall had only covered 4% of the planned area, with only 4m hectares (9.8 million acres) planted. Ethiopia has had the most success with 5.5bn seedlings planted, but Chad has only planted 1.1m. Doubt was raised over the survival rate of the 12m trees planted in Senegal.
The Federal Government has approved the establishment of the Interim Office of the National Agency for the Great Green Wall, GGW.
Now, the soil takes up enough water again and crops are growing. “This plot has been restored,” Sawadogo says.
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