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African nations will build a Great Wall of trees across the continent!

Africa is about to get a lot greener through a new pan-African proposal called the Great Green Wall (GGW) Initiative. This plan, which is sadly not an actual wall, but rather a long strip of green collaboration, will stretch from Senegal in West Africa to Djibouti in East Africa—a total of 4,400 miles.  

The Great Green Wall is not a reforestation initiative. It is a social and economic initiative aimed at improving the quality of life for populations across these African regions.  

Physically, The Great Green Wall initiative includes an actual wall of trees that will flourish in arid regions of Africa chosen by local communities. This stretch of  land is planned to extend across the Saharan strip, its north and south borders including oases and enclaves like Cape Verde. Currently, 15% of the plan’s trees have been planted in Senegal, and 3 million trees have been planted in Burkina Faso as of late March 2016

The initiative intends to halt the area’s desertification. When completed, the initiative will improve the area’s economic growth, food security and reduce the number of displaced peoples and refugees caused by the currently uninhabitable land.

The GGW Initiative began as an African Union idea in 2005. It was initially supported by Nigeria’s former president, Olusegun Obasanjo and Senegal’s President Abdoulaye Wade. In 2010, the countries of Burkina Faso, Chad, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal and Sudan signed up to implement the GGW.

The initiative is backed by regional and international organizations such as the United Nations Development Programme–Drylands, Development Center, The World Bank and the African Forest Forum. The project received $4 billion USD in 2015 at the UN Climate Conference in Paris, with further commitments from partners countries like France.

The GWW hopes to reverse the United Nations’ estimates that desertification will claim more two-thirds of Africa’s arable land by 2025.

Desertification at this extreme rate occurs when crops are raised in areas high at risk for drought, thereby exhausting the nutrients and organic matter in the land’s soil. Other causes include bush and forest fires, farmers not diversifying the crops they plant, and separation of cattle rearing and agriculture.  The African continent has the highest percentage of the world’s hyper-arid areas, and world’s susceptible drylands at 9%  and 40%, respectively. 

When land is barren and uninhabitable populations must travel to survive. These displaced populations are called climate refugees, and worldwide it estimated that their numbers are near one billion. In the Sahel and Saharan regions, more than 60 million Africans have been forced to flee their homes in the last five years.

Climate change is a core cause of extreme poverty in the globe; innovation and goal alignment among all countries committed to reversing climate change is key in halting conflict and poverty. The initiative is an extraordinary step in halting desertification and reversing extreme poverty, migration and conflict in Africa’s Sahel and Saharan regions.