The Great Green Wall

A great wall – not to separate people, to unite them.

The great green wall is an ambitious project launched by the African Union, bringing together more than 20 African countries to stop the effects of desertification near the Sahara Desert and to restore the degraded land. The aim is to finish the project and to see a significant change until 2030. Once the green wall is done, it is going to bean 8000 km long wall of trees across the whole weight of Africa, covering 100 million hectares of restored land.

The roots of the project reach as far as to the 1970s when an area known as the Sahel, close to the Sahara Desert started to change inhabitable. Rapidly this area which used to be full of vegetation and life started to dry, leaving millions of people without land to grow food or to live in.

People started to think about solutions for the alarming situation. And in the 1980s an idea of a green area, reaching all the way from Senegal across the whole continent until Djibouti started to gain attention. It took time until, in the year 2007, this dream of a better future finally sprang to action. At first, 11 African countries signed up to the initiative but since then the amount of participating countries has expanded to be more than 20.

The objectives of the project are to grow fertile land, to grow economic opportunities, to grow food security, to grow climate resilience in a region where temperatures are rising faster than anywhere else on Earth, and to grow a wonder of the world-spanning 8000 km across Africa.

Trees are making a significant change to the soil’s ability to store water because of their roots. After the rain, the water doesn’t evaporate from the ground, leaving it more humid and fertile. The project is only in the beginning, but the results are already showing.

In Ethiopia, 15 million hectares of degraded land have been restored and land tenure security has improved. In Senegal, 11.4 million trees have been planted and 25 000 hectares of degraded land have been restored. In Nigeria, 5 million hectares of degraded land have been restored and 20 000 jobs have been created. In Sudan, 2,000 hectares of land have been restored. In Burkina Faso, Mali, and Niger about 120 communities are involved, a green belt created over more than 2,500 hectares of degraded and dry lands, more than two million seeds and seedlings planted from fifty native species of trees.

Sustainable development goals are a plan to change our planet’s future in a better direction. They focus on the most challenging problems we are facing as humankind, like poverty, inequality, climate change, environmental degradation, peace, and justice. United Nations has listed 17 goals which could enable the world to be a better place by the year 2030, The Great Green Wall project is supporting 15 of them.

Seeing news of all the bad things happening on our planet can often feel overwhelming, leaving us feeling powerless about the change we want to see for a better future and fight against climate change. It is important to know that there are also good things happening. People are taking the change to their own hands to enable working habitat for their children, for the future.

Kirsi Suomi

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