2007 CE • West Africa
"It is not necessarily a physical wall, but rather a mosaic of land use practices that ultimately will meet the expectations of a wall. It has been transformed into a metaphorical thing." —Mohamed Bakarr, Sub-Sahara environmental specialist, Global Environment Facility The African Sahel is a semi-arid region along the southern edge of the Sahara desert. Historic vulnerability to drought, combined with increasing population and land degradation since the 1970s, has led to a steady desertification of the region that now threatens food and water supplies. In 2007, governments of countries encompassing the Sahel (including Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sudan and Chad) launched the Great Green Wall project to combat desertification. Conceived in the spirit of Wangari Maathai, the Kenyan environmentalist who founded the Green Belt Movement, the project's goal is to create an 8,000 km 'wall' of forest across the Sahel. As of 2020, only around 4% of this proposed forest has taken root, but the project's aim and legacy has evolved into creating jobs in land restoration, water reclamation, and traditional land-use practices.
quoted: "The Sahel, desertification beyond drought", We Are Water Foundation, 17 June 2019, https://www.wearewater.org/en/the-sahel-desertification-beyond-drought_318262. Jim Morrison, "The “Great Green Wall” Didn’t Stop Desertification, but it Evolved Into Something That Might," Smithsonian Magazine, 23 August 2016, https://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/great-green-wall-stop-desertification-not-so-much-180960171/.
Image: Vincent van Zeijst, CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons