Still ongoing, and whose development began a decade ago, this project that crosses 11 countries It was born with the purpose of stopping the advance of desertification in this great African area. It is known as The Great Green Wall of Africa, or Initiative for the Great Green Wall of the Sahara and Sahel. Your goal is very simple, but gigantic. Financed with 7.000 million approximately euros, this wall aims to cover 8.000 kilometers long and 15 wide. To get an idea, a total of 120.000 square kilometers. The equivalent of almost a quarter of the size of Spain!
It also has a double intention. On the one hand that of prevent the desert from advancing, and on the other mitigate the effects of climate change. Planting millions of trees has many benefits, and acacias have been chosen as a tree is no accident. They strongly resist drought and also their shade helps to save water in growing areas. Among its benefits are also that many people have to leave these areas due to lack of food.
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The green corridor, an almost century-old idea
Despite being new, This idea dates back to 1927. The French Forest Engineer Louis Lavauden coined the term "desertification" to explain that deserts advance as a result of agricultural exploitation and degradation of arid lands. 25 years later, in 1952, the idea of improving living conditions in the Sahara did not disappear. Another forestry engineer, the Englishman Richard St. Baber Baker suggested the idea of building a great wall of 50km and create a "green barrier" of trees to contain the spread of the desert.
The droughts in the Horn of Africa and in the Sahel in the 70s, started a beginning of ideas to alleviate all this situation. It wasn't until 2007, where the African Union approved this project that would cross the entire continent, from Senegal to Djibouti. An ambitious project that, still ambitious and ongoing, there are those who say they could put in a little more effort.
Is it correct to modify an ecosystem at will?
It is perhaps the part where, like so many times, it is seen that our actions can strongly influence something that has been created naturally. Louis Lavauden may have been right to call it "desertification," but we also now know that the climate can be changeable. Criticisms are again served. The "detractors" argue that, a healthy and natural ecosystem influenced by climate, cannot be considered as a kind of natural disease.
Another controversy that arises is that if this should really mean an improvement in the living conditions of the population there, it is not very "normal." That is, instead of catching the problem, the focus, what is done is to draw a perimeter. On the other hand also it would be more appropriate to occupy large areas, and not such a long narrow line. The final idea must be added that it was to surround the entire Sahara, which together with the existing green areas make the green "wall" somewhat inconspicuous.
Could other options be considered?
On the table there have always been different ways of approaching the same problem. One of these options is the technique based on the ability of the earth to regenerate flora by itself. Known as ecological memory or natural regeneration managed by farmers. Floods and animals can transport seeds to places where they can sprout. The root systems of old trees can also produce new shoots. This would be a way of restore the landscape in a more natural way and without the need to plant trees directly.
Africa has options, potential, but strongly marked by its exploitation and climate change. The green wall is a barrier, a brake from which you cannot go further back. However it is achieved, hopefully in the end, it will serve as a full stop. Where to write a new story, full of life and without arid lands.