AAfter years of struggling with insufficient resources, efforts to build Africa’s Great Green Wall – a massive line of defense against desertification – have received a major boost.
The initiative to eleven countries on the edge of the largest desert in the world was started with great success in 2005, just to combat lack of money.
But 2021 could be the year of change.
Donors pledged $ 19 billion to the program this year, half of which has now been pledged, while U.S. billionaire Jeff Bezos pointed out at the recent COP26 climate summit in Glasgow that his foundation is raising $ 1 billion to combat land degradation, particularly in Africa.
The idea is to plant different trees and bushes in a corridor about 8,000 kilometers long and 15 kilometers wide across Africa that surrounds the southern edge of the Sahara.
The African Union approved the initiative in 2007, two years after the leaders of Burkina Faso, Chad, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal and Sudan approved the plan at a Sahel-Saharan summit. States hatched community in the Burkinabe capital Ouagadougou.
The project is coordinated by the Pan-African Great Green Wall Agency.
When completed, it will be the largest living structure in the world under the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification.
The Great Green Wall is Africa’s showcase program for combating climate change and desertification, and also aims to tackle food insecurity and poverty in North Africa, the Sahel and the Horn of Africa.
The region, which is among the poorest in the world, is also experiencing some of the steepest temperature increases in the world.
Specific goals are to rehabilitate 100 million hectares of degraded land by 2030, sequester 250 million tons of carbon and create 10 million green jobs.
“It’s not just a curtain of trees,” Senegalese geologist Abdoulaye Dia, executive secretary of the Great Green Wall Agency, told AFP.
According to Dia, the Green Wall has reclaimed 4.6 million hectares of impoverished land in the 11 countries since 2005.
The main strategies have been reforestation and measures to prevent land degradation and overgrazing, he said, noting that funding has come from individual governments – well below what is needed for the overall success of the program – with no number.
In January of this year, the Green Wall received a major shot in the arm at the One Planet Summit in Paris, where donors pledged $ 19 billion for the program.
“48 percent of the funds were used (for work) on site,” said French President Emmanuel Macron at a side event of the climate summit in Glasgow.
But progress has been slow. A 2020 United Nations report on combating desertification stated that there was “insufficient, unpredictable and uncertain funding.”
Adama Doulkom, the manager of the Great Green Wall in Burkina Faso, pointed to the rampant uncertainty as the “greatest difficulty”.
Amazon founder Bezos said work on the wall – which he called a “remarkable innovation” – needs to be accelerated.
Still, Dia praised the worldwide surge in “visible and tangible activity” posted on the wall, saying the project had been criticized as “a never-ending saga” – but now it has become a reality.