A Great Wall in Africa
Massive New Project Seeks to Hold Back the Sahara
by Helen Zhang, age 14
Thousands of years ago, the Great Wall of China was built to keep out Mongols and other invaders. Now, a similar wall might be built across Africa to keep out a different enemy ⎯ sand
Central and West African countries have recently noticed a drastic climate change. Due to prolonged drought, crops have died, soils have eroded, and an estimated ten million people faced severe food shortages in the sub-Saharan Sabel region last year. This all comes from the fact that rainfall is now significantly lower than in previous years. At this rate, the United Nations (UN) forecasts that Saharan sands may engulf two-thirds of Africa’s farmland by 2025.
A project called the Great Green Wall (GGW) plans to plant a 9.3-mile-wide and 4,831-mile-long wall of trees from Senegal to Djibouti. The GGW will span 11 sub-Saharan states. Burkina Faso’s Marxist leader, Thomas Sankara, proposed this plan in the 1980’s, and in 2005 former Nigerian President Olesegun Obasanjo brought it up again. It was approved by the African Union in December 2006. However, this plan was not put into motion until later, in February 2011, when it was officially approved.
The Global Environment Facility has already given a 115-million-dollar grant towards this project. The project hopes that planting trees across the continent will serve as a natural barrier, reducing sand erosion, and the spread of the Sahara.
Some indigenous and environmental groups oppose this plan.
“It seems poorly conceived in terms of both ecological and socioeconomic considerations,” says Wally Menne of the African NGO Timberwatch, which fights for the rights of forest peoples.
He adds, “tree plantations on land earmarked for the GGW would displace existing communities and would lead to depletion of scarce water sources.”
However, supporters of the project say the Great Green Wall is just one small step toward a better, more environmentally safe future. These supports say that in a world where climate change strongly affects survival, it is good to know that countries around the world are trying to find solutions.
[Source: Earth Island Journal]