The Great Green Wall is an initiative that has been planned for many years by a partnership of eleven African countries in a bid to prevent further desertification by the Sahara. The good news is the project has just got the go-ahead at an international summit in Germany at a review of the efforts of the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD).
Although the scheme was first proposed in the 80s by the then president of Burkina Faso, Thomas Sankara, due to vastness of the area to be covered, the number of countries taking part and scale of the funding needed, it took until this month for all the pieces of the puzzle to fit into place.
In all, a massive $3 billion has been pledged from a variety of developmental organisations, including the Global Environment Facility. It will all be needed, for this project takes place across the Sahel zone, the vast area where the Sahara desert meets the African savannas of Burkina Faso, Chad, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Sudan and Senegal.
The plan is strikingly simple and refreshingly green: to plant millions of trees along the border of the Sahara in order to stop existing soil from eroding further. Many of these countries have already implemented green belt initiatives in order to protect their lands from soil erosion, so the expertise is there to make this collaborative project a success.
When complete, the Great Green Wall of vegetation is expected to be as much as 15 kilometres wide and stretch some 8,000 kilometres across Africa, from Djibouti in the East to Senegal in the West.
But the project is about more than simply preventing the further expansion of the Sahara, it is also about tackling poverty issues in the countries involved and it is hoped that it will go someway towards promoting political stability within central Africa.
Of course, the resulting vegetation will have a beneficial effect for wildlife and fauna, creating new habitats, as well as protecting water sources, such as Lake Chad. It is also thought, that administered properly, the programme could provide valuable food sources for the inhabitants of the regions and support local economic development.