From the original 11 countries that signed up to the initiative, today there is a group of more than 20 countries across Africa who have joined the effort to plant trees across the continent.
The wall will span across the length of the Sahel, a biogeographic region of Africa, with the Sahara desert to the north and savannas in the south.
The Sahel is a long strip of fertile land that has become severely degraded over the last few decades. The area that was once full of lush vegetation and has supported the livelihoods of millions of African people and wildlife, has become dry and barren. The combined effects of climate change, population growth and unsustainable land management practices have led to a dramatic shift in the environmental conditions of the area.
Planting began in 2007 and since then, approximately 15% of the wall has been completed. To date, Ethiopia has seen the most progress, with 15 million hectares of land being restored. Senegal has also planted drought resistant seedlings over 12 million hectares of the Sahel.
The trees planted as part of this project will address threats including climate change, drought, famine, conflict and migration. The green wall will be such an asset in the fight against climate change due to its capacity for carbon sequestration. It is hoped that the green wall will sequester 250 million tonnes of carbon from the atmosphere, via the trees planted on 100 million hectares of restored land. These ambitious targets, in addition to the creation of 10 million green jobs, are all part of the project’s 2030 goals.
The wall will also improve the quality of the land across the Sahel, allowing for increased crop yields and securing food sources for millions of impoverished communities across Africa. The promise of green jobs will also bring economic growth to the area and provide employment opportunities across the participating countries. The increased food security, jobs and natural resources of the area will likely encourage more people to stay in the Sahel, reducing migration rates.
Unfortunately, the program has faced some challenges along the way. Planting is behind schedule and progress has been difficult to track due to a lack of effective monitoring and evaluation systems. Furthermore, there has been some criticism around the use of a wall of trees in areas where planting grasslands may be more appropriate.
When The Great Green Wall is eventually completed, it will be three times the size of the Great Barrier Reef and will be another wonder of the world. If the identified obstacles can be overcome, this mammoth project has the potential to have a significant impact on planetary and human wellbeing.