Great Green Wall (Africa)

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The Sahel region
Satellite photo of the Sahara

The Great Green Wall or Great Green Wall of the Sahara and the Sahel (French: Grande Muraille Verte pour le Sahara et le Sahel; Arabic: السور الأخضر العظي, romanizedas-Sūr al-ʾAkhḍar al-ʿIẓī) is a project led by the African Union, initially conceived as a way to combat desertification in the Sahel region and hold back expansion of the Sahara, by planting a wall of trees stretching across the entire Sahel. The modern green wall has since evolved into a program promoting water harvesting techniques, greenery protection and improving indigenous land use techniques, aimed at creating a mosaic of green and productive landscapes across North Africa.[1]

The project is a response to the combined effect of natural resources degradation and drought in rural areas. 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, emphasizing the importance of maintaining food production and environmental protection in the area.[2]


In the 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.[3] 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.[citation needed] 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, the capital of Burkina Faso, on 1–2 June 2005.[4] The African Union endorsed it in 2007 as the Great Green Wall for the Sahara and the Sahel Initiative (GGWSSI).[5]

Lessons learnt from the Algerian Green Dam[6] and the Green Wall of China led to an integrated multi-sectoral approach.[7] Originally a tree planting initiative, the project evolved into a development programming tool. In 2007, CHSG[citation needed] 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).[4][citation needed]

A harmonised regional strategy was adopted in September 2012 by the African Ministerial Conference on Environment (AMCEN).[8] 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".[9]

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.[10] Nigeria created an interim agency to support GGW development.[11]

Since 2014, the eco-friendly search engine Ecosia has been partnered with the local population in Burkina Faso.[12] Ecosia spread its campaign to Ethiopia[13] in 2017 and to Senegal the following year.[14] According to Ecosia, it has planted over 15,117,046 trees and 14,137 ha (34,930 acres) were restored in Burkina Faso;[12] in Senegal it planted over 1,424,748 and restored 300 ha (740 acres)[14] and planted over 9,963,757 trees and restored 3,609 ha (8,920 acres) in Ethiopia as of September 2021.[13]

Drylands Monitoring Week (2015) assessed the state of dryland measurement and initiated collaboration toward large-scale, comprehensive monitoring.[15]

Planning (including choices of vegetation and work with local populations)[16] and plantings/land restoration followed (including in Ethiopia, Senegal, Nigeria and Sudan).[17]

In 2016, 21 countries had projects related to the GGW, including farmer-supported natural regeneration.[18]

Bare land restoration has been successfully demonstrated in Burkina Faso, although security is an issue in the face of terrorist activity.[19]

In September 2017, the BBC reported that progress was best in Senegal.[20]

As of March 2019, 15 per cent of the wall was complete with significant gains made in Nigeria, Senegal and Ethiopia.[21] 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).[2] In September 2020, it was reported that the Great Green Wall had only covered 4% of the planned area, with only 4 million hectares (9.8 million acres) planted. Ethiopia has had the most success with 5.5 billion seedlings planted, but Chad has only planted 1.1 million. Doubt was raised over the survival rate of the 12 million trees planted in Senegal.[22]


The logo of the Great Green Wall initiative, showing participating countries and a representation of the area in focus

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.[23]

Regional and international partners include:

Major principles[edit]

The project encompasses the Saharan strip, north and south borders, including Saharan oases and enclaves.[citation needed]

The GGWSSI intends to strengthen existing mechanisms (such as Comprehensive African Agricultural Development Program, Environmental Program (CAADP) of New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD), regional, sub-regional, and national action programmes to combat desertification) to improve their efficiency through synergy and coordination activities.[citation needed]

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.[citation needed]

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
from the atmosphere.[2]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Morrison, Jim. "The "Great Green Wall" Didn't Stop Desertification, but it Evolved Into Something That Might". Smithsonian Magazine. Retrieved 2021-05-01.
  2. ^ a b c Puiu, Tibi (2019-04-03). "More than 20 African countries are planting a 8,027-km-long 'Great Green Wall'". ZME Science. Retrieved 2019-04-16.
  3. ^ Paul Mantle; Betty J. Fisher (1 September 2014). "The Man of the Trees and the Great Green Wall: A Baha'i's Environmental Legacy for the Ages". Wilmette Institute. Archived from the original on 23 November 2015.
  4. ^ a b Grande Muraille Verte, p. 3.
  5. ^ "Action Against Desertification". Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the UN. Retrieved 1 September 2019.
  6. ^ Saifi, Merdas; et al. (2015). "The Green Dam in Algeria as a tool to combat desertification". Planet@Risk. Davos: Global Risk Forum. 3 (1): 68–71. ISSN 2296-8172.
  7. ^ Harmonized regional strategy for implementation of the "Great Green Wall Initiative of the Sahara and the Sahel" (PDF), archived from the original (PDF) on 16 January 2016, retrieved 12 March 2017
  8. ^ "14th Ordinary Session of the AMCEN". United Nations Environment Programme. UNEP. Archived from the original on 24 November 2015. Retrieved 24 November 2015.
  9. ^ "Report of the ministerial segment held from 12 to 14 September 2012" (PDF). Arusha, United Republic of Tanzania: African Ministerial Conference on the Environment. 14 September 2012. Archived from the original (PDF) on 9 March 2015.
  10. ^ "Background". Action Against Desertification. FAO. Archived from the original on 23 November 2015.
  11. ^ "Nigeria creates agency for 'Great Green Wall' project". Premium Times. 9 September 2014. Retrieved 1 September 2019. The Federal Government has approved the establishment of the Interim Office of the National Agency for the Great Green Wall, GGW.
  12. ^ a b "Re-greening the Desert". Ecosia. Retrieved 2 July 2020.
  13. ^ a b "Regenerating Diverse Landscapes". Ecosia. Retrieved 2 July 2020.
  14. ^ a b "Trees Against Poverty and Malnutrition". Ecosia. Retrieved 2 July 2020.
  15. ^ "Drylands Monitoring Week Establishes Network for Sustainable Management of Drylands". IISD Reporting Service. International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD). Archived from the original on 23 November 2015.
  16. ^ "Background documents". Action Against Desertification. FAO. Archived from the original on 16 January 2016.
  17. ^ "The Great Green Wall for the Sahara and the Sahel Initiative". The Global Mechanism. United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD). Archived from the original on 23 November 2015. Retrieved 22 November 2015.
  18. ^ Jim Morrison (23 August 2016). "The "Great Green Wall" Didn't Stop Desertification, but it Evolved Into Something That Might". Smithsonian. Retrieved 1 September 2019.
  19. ^ "In Burkina Faso, the Great Green Wall is taking shape". Action Against Desertification. FAO. 7 May 2019. Retrieved 1 September 2019. Now, the soil takes up enough water again and crops are growing. “This plot has been restored,” Sawadogo says.
  20. ^ Martyn-Hemphill, Amelia (2017-09-26). "Why is Africa building a Great Green Wall?". BBC World Hacks.
  21. ^ Corbley, McKinley (2019-03-31). "Dozens of Countries Have Been Working to Plant 'Great Green Wall' – and It's Holding Back Poverty". Good News Network.
  22. ^ Jonathan Watts (7 September 2020). "Africa's Great Green Wall just 4% complete halfway through schedule". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2020-09-07 – via
  23. ^ "Great Green Wall for the Sahara and the Sahel initiative: The African Wall" (PDF). FAO. AU-FAO-GM UNCCD-EU. Archived from the original (PDF) on 21 February 2017. Retrieved 12 March 2017.
  24. ^ "Homepage". The Global Mechanism. The Global Mechanism. Retrieved 24 November 2015.


External links[edit]