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A green wall for Africa

February 22, 2019
topic:Climate action
tags:#terrorism, #climate change, #migration, #African Union (AU), #Green Wall, #Africa, #Sahara
located:Western Sahara, Nigeria
by:Bob Koigi
With the unprecedented migration of Africans to Europe in search of better days, proliferation of armed groups that are fanning terrorism and changes in weather that have now affected tens of millions of livelihoods across the continent, Africa is betting on a mega green wall to address these biting changes, and the international community has been warming up to the idea.

Christened the great green wall, the 8,000km long and 15km wide bulwark that hopes to change the lives of 425 million Africans in the expansive Sahara region, the hottest place on earth and one of the poorest, is recording impressive gains 12 years since it was first conceived. It targets 21 countries including Gambia, Cameroon, Togo, Mauritania, Djibouti, Nigeria, Burkina Faso, Nigeria, Egypt, Benin, Algeria, Chad, Ethiopia, Ghana, Mali, Senegal, Eritrea, Sudan, Somalia and Niger.

Chaperoned by the African Union, the buffering wall was initially meant to plant tens of thousands of trees from Africa’s west coast in Senegal all the way to Djibouti on the East. The idea was to halt the devastating effects the Sahara desert, the largest in the world, was having on people living around it and tame desertification.

Numerous ripple effects were emerging as a result of this catastrophe including a scramble for limited resources sparking violence that saw the United Nations Security Council in its 2017 resolution identify environmental challenges in the region as the greatest catalyst violence. Terror group Boko Haram that also operates in the Sahel was becoming more powerful as it took advantage of the hunger situation in the area to bolster its dominance according to a German report.  

With arable land transformed into deserts and bulk of people who rely on agriculture or desert agriculture, for a livelihood especially the youth having no other source of income, migration spiked.

Now proponents of the green wall say new initiatives that empower local communities to own the wall by establishing tree nurseries, planting the trees and getting paid for it while establishing small enterprises were finally paying off.

“The initiative is supporting over 425 million Africans living in the drylands to embrace sustainable development practices that protect the environment and fight against hunger and poverty. This is important given the fact that the cost of inaction leads to forced migration and conflict, reduction of crop yields, unemployment, poverty, hunger and malnutrition,” says the African Union.

And while the wall has a long way to go, the African Union is still upbeat that it will live up to the 2030 target of restoring 100 million hectares of land, creating more than 350,000 jobs, providing food security to 20 million people and sequestering 250 million tonnes of carbon.

Numerous countries, especially in Europe and global multilateral institutions like the World Bank, have thrown their weight behind the project. “This remains one of the most comprehensive and largest projects to tackle some of the greatest threats of our time from terrorism, climate change and migration that cuts across continents. The international community sees this as the silver bullet to the twin problems of terrorism and migration that emanate from Africa and have threatened global peace and stability,” said Dr Ribery Osoro, a peace and security analyst.

A key component of the great green wall initiative is the $1.1 billion World Bank Sahel and West Africa Programme, SAWAP, project that is targeting 12 countries in the region.

By the end of 2018 the project had restored over 1 million hectares of land through aggressive tree planting that benefitted over 21 million people.

In Senegal for example, more than 2,000 jobs had been created especially in the planting of tree nurseries with desertification having been reduced by 34 per cent which saw 40,000 hectares recovered. Pastoralists are now able to get enough fodder for their livestock which has reduced conflicts and more children are going to school as normalcy returns.

In Nigeria, communities have planted orchards and vegetable gardens which have boosted food security and the installation of water-powered boreholes providing a new lifeline for more than 40,000 people and 150,000 livestock through access to water according to SAWAP.

“While the focus now is to ensure that the target is met by 2030, the bigger emphasis should now be in measuring and quantifying the impact the already established initiatives are having on ordinary lives and addressing the problems that the project set to tackle. Then the next question becomes, will they be sustainable long after the project timeline lapses,” Dr Osoro added.

Article written by:
Bob Koigi
Bob Koigi
Author, Contributing Editor
Western Sahara Nigeria
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