While climate change is a global phenomenon, some communities across the globe feel the effects more than others. In the Sahel region of Africa, rising temperatures have led to drought, food scarcity, and increased conflict over limited resources. However, an initiative called the Great Green Wall has been put in place to reforest 247 million acres of land and foster resilience throughout the region. While the project is aimed at reversing environmental degradation, it will also increase economic opportunity and food security, displaying the broad resilience implications of the effort.
The Great Green Wall project, organized by the African Union, first began in 2007, with the goal of planting a 4,815 mile long wall of trees to prevent further expansion of the Sahara. Funded by the World Bank, the European Union, and the United Nations, the project will cost $8 billion and involve hundreds of volunteers from over 27 countries. The wall will stretch across the entire continent and span 11 countries, all of which have begun to experience the effects of desertification. The environmental impact of the wall will be felt worldwide, as it will be crucial in combating global climate change. Upon completion, the living structure could absorb around 250 million metric tons of carbon dioxide. This will be especially significant for the people living in the Sahel region, who disproportionately experience the negative impacts of climate change, despite contributing to it the least.
The impact of the wall is not just environmental. The project fosters social and economic resilience through smart investments and increased opportunity. The roots of the trees being planted hold water in the soil, allowing wells to fill up in communities that previously experienced widespread drought. This has also allowed for more gardening and the creation of hundreds of new jobs for women who are working on planting the wall and surrounding gardens. The national Great Green Wall agency also manages what is known as a grass “bank,” which spent 8 months untouched, allowing grass and saplings to grow securely. Herders are now able to pay $1.70 per day to harvest the grass instead of deforesting other areas. This kind of project has cascading impacts. The revenue generated from the harvesting fees is going towards solar panels to power local schools. It is also a more accessible source of grass for herders, allowing children who previously had to work with their family to instead go to school. Attendance at local schools has increased since the project began, and the social capital in the region has been enhanced through this project.
Sources and Further Reading
The Great Green Wall – Great Green Wall
Why is Africa building a Great Green Wall? – BBC News
The Great Green Wall Initiative – United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification