23 Nov 2021, 11:43

Back in the spotlight: Africa's Great Green Wall

  DAKAR, Nov 23, 2021 (BSS/AFP) - After years of struggling with insufficient
funds, efforts to build Africa's Great Green Wall -- a massive defence line
against desertification -- have received a major boost.

  The initiative concerning 11 countries on the rim of the world's biggest
desert was first launched to great acclaim in 2005, only to battle a lack of

  But 2021 could be the year of change.

  Donors this year pledged $19 billion for the scheme, half of which has now
been committed, while at the recent COP26 climate summit in Glasgow, US
billionaire Jeff Bezos indicated that his foundation would stump up $1
billion to help fight land degradation, particularly in Africa.

  - What is the Great Green Wall? -

  The idea is to plant diverse trees and shrubs in a corridor about 8,000
kilometres (4,900 miles) long and 15 kilometres (nine miles) wide across
Africa, hugging the southern edge of the Sahara.

  The African Union endorsed the initiative in 2007, two years after the
leaders of Burkina Faso, Chad, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Mali, Mauritania,
Niger, Nigeria, Senegal and Sudan hatched the plan at a summit of the
Community of Sahel-Saharan States held in the Burkinabe capital Ouagadougou.

  The project is being coordinated by the Pan-African Great Green Wall

  Once completed, it will be the largest living structure on the planet,
according to the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification.

  - What are its aims? -

  The Great Green Wall is Africa's flagship programme for fighting climate
change and desertification, and also aims to combat food insecurity and
poverty across North Africa, the Sahel and the Horn of Africa.

  The region, among the world's poorest, is also seeing some of the steepest
temperature increases on the planet.

  Concrete goals include rehabilitating 100 million hectares of degraded land
by 2030, sequestering 250 million tonnes of carbon and creating 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.

  - What is the situation today? -

  Since 2005, the Green Wall has recovered 4.6 million hectares of
impoverished land across the 11 countries, according to Dia.

  The main strategies have been reforestation and measures to prevent soil
degradation and over-grazing, he said, noting that the financing came from
individual governments -- well short of the funds needed for the overall
success of the programme -- without giving a figure.

  In January 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

  "Forty-eight percent of the funds have been committed (to work) on the
ground," French President Emmanuel Macron said at a side event at the climate
summit in Glasgow.

  But progress has been slow. In a 2020 report, the United Nations Convention
to Combat Desertification said there was an "insufficient, unpredictable and
insecure funding situation".

  Adama Doulkom, the Great Green Wall's Burkina Faso manager, pointed to
rampant insecurity as a "major difficulty".

  Amazon founder Bezos said work on the wall -- which he called a "remarkable
innovation" -- had to be sped up.

  Still, Dia praised the global surge in "visible and tangible activities"
tied to the wall, saying the project had been criticised as being "a never-
ending saga -- but now it has become a reality."

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