Africa to build a green wall to combat climate change

The UN food agency and other groups have launched a new initiative called the ‘Great Green Wall’. The aim is to restore some 10 million hectares of land per year in the northern Sahara and Sahel regions.

A groundbreaking map of restoration opportunities in Africa in an area being called the Great Green Wall was launched at the UN climate talks in Marrakech last week. The map is based on a collection and analysis of land-use information in order to combat climate change and desertification in Africa’s drylands.

The Great Green Wall covers arid and semi-arid areas in the north and south ends of the Sahara Desert.

The northern band stretches along the coast of Mediterranean Sea, starting from Morocco in the west to Tunisia.

The other band covers a much larger area along the southern end of the Sahara, beginning in Senegal in the west and stretching across the entire Sahel through to Somalia and parts of Kenya in the east. The Great Green Wall area is home to 232 million people.

The core area covered of the Great Green Wall consists of 780 million hectares of land, roughly 166 million hectares of which offer opportunities for restoration projects. Some 10 million hectares will have to be restored each year to halt and reverse land degradation caused by climate change.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization, a variety of restoration approaches are possible under the initiative: natural regeneration that allows farmers to protect and manage the natural regeneration of forests, croplands and grasslands; large-scale land preparation and enrichment planning; the use of high-quality seeds and planting materials; and community participation in the selection of native species to be used.

Eduardo Mansur of the FOA called the initiative “Africa’s flagship programme to combat the effects of climate change and desertification”.

The data collected to identify the restoration opportunities was a collaborative effort on behalf of the FAO, the African Union, Addis Ababa University in Ethiopia, Google, the World Resources Institute and other partners.


Image credit: Food and Agriculture Organization

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