Three Years Later, “Wall of Trees” Project LaunchesJuly 24, 2008 By Sonia SchmanskiDesertification is a serious problem for the land bordering—one might say being swallowed up by—the Sahara desert. But help is on the way for this huge swath of the continent. Three years after the idea was initially floated, the Great Green Wall project, which is intended to slow the Sahara’s southward march, is underway, after being formally approved at the Community of Sahel-Saharan States summit in Benin last month.
The first phase of the project will last for two years and will, with a $3 million budget, create a tract of trees 7,000 kilometers long and 15 kilometers wide. Planting will begin in September 2008 and will involve representatives and consultants from a number of affected countries, including Burkina Faso, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Senegal, and Nigeria. The second planting phase will take place on the eastern part of the continent and will be undertaken in partnership with Sudan, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Chad, and Djibouti. This second phase has not been formalized yet, but it is expected that some arrangement will be reached through the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) in the Horn of Africa.
Desertification and the droughts that often precede it have significant effects on life in the Sahel, the region bordering the Sahara. A 2007 UN Environment Programme report warns that “climate change and desertification threaten the livelihoods of millions of Sudanese living on the edge of the dry Sahara belt,” and the UN Convention to Combat Desertification reports that “[i]n many African countries, combating desertification and promoting development are virtually one and the same.”
Photo courtesy Flickr user Christing-O-.
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