Since 2007, more than 20 African countries have been working together to plant an 8000 km long “Great Green Wall” spanning the continent of Africa from Senegal to Djibouti. Located in the Sahel region at the southern edge of the Sahara desert, the wall consists of drought-resistant acacia trees. The completed Great Green Wall will be the largest living structure on Earth, three times the size of the Great Barrier Reef.
The partner countries include: Algeria, Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Cape Verde, Chad, Djibouti, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gambia, Ghana, Libya, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Somalia, Sudan, and Tunisia. The project is backed by organizations such as the African Union, the UN Convention to Combat Desertification, and the Global Environment Facility.
This project aims to restore foliage that has been destroyed since the 1970s due to factors such as unsustainable land management, population growth, and climate change which have left the area barren. Such factors led to devastating consequences such as droughts, food insecurity, mass unemployment, forced migration, and conflicts over dwindling natural resources. The Great Green Wall represents a massive international effort to fight back.
Today the project is 15% completed and the countries involved are already reaping positive rewards. Fifteen million hectares of land have been restored in Ethiopia and another 5 million hectares in Nigeria. In Senegal, approximately 12 million drought-resistant trees have been planted. In Niger the restoration of 5 million hectares of land has led to an additional 500,000 tons of grain per year, enough to feed 2.5 million people.
The Great Green Wall promotes an incredible 15 out of the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. For instance, groundwater wells are refilling with drinking water. Improved water security means that women and girls do not have to spend hours a day fetching water, empowering them with new opportunities and promoting gender equality. The need for tree maintenance is providing work and a new income source for villagers, thereby providing families across the Sahel with green jobs.
More than a wall of trees, the Great Green Wall symbolizes the power of humanity to overcome its greatest threat, namely the degradation of the environment.