Africa is gaining a great green wall to contain desertification

Initiative aims to restore 100 million hectares of land by 2030

Desertification is a major problem worldwide, but in Africa it has been presenting worrying levels. In 2018, it was discovered that the Sahara, the largest desert in the world after Antarctica and the Arctic, had increased by 10% in the last century. This expansion is due to a combination of man-made climate change and natural climate cycles, with most changes occurring along the northern and southern edges of the desert.

The Sahel region (which runs from the southern Sahara belt to the Sudanese savannah), where some of the poorest communities in the world reside, is the one that has suffered the most from this desertification. The region has been experiencing persistent droughts and seeing its natural resources being depleted continuously.

This is where the Great Green Wall comes in, a project that could save an entire
region from ecological collapse.

What is the green wall?

Launched in 2007, this revolutionary initiative aims to restore Africa’s degraded landscapes and transform millions of lives into one of the poorest regions in the world, the Sahel. After being completed, the Green Wall will be the largest living structure on the planet – a natural wonder of the 8,000 km world that stretches across the continent.

The Great Green Wall is now being implemented in more than 20 countries in Africa, extending from east to west, with an investment of more than eight billion dollars. The initiative brings together African countries and international partners, under the leadership of the African Union Commission and the Pan African Agency of the Great Green Wall.

The project has adopted a range of tools to build a vegetation belt across the continent. Although trees are the main focus, other methods are being used to help restore the land, based on the specific biogeographic needs of each area

The Wall is still under construction, but it is already possible to measure the success of the project. Degraded land is being restored at an accelerated rate. This means greater food security for nearby communities.

Nigeria, Senegal, Burkina Faso and Ethiopia have so far seen more significant gains in the Sahel region. More than 17 million trees have been planted in Burkina Faso, Nigeria has seen more than 48,000 square kilometres of degraded land restored, while Senegal and Ethiopia have also achieved similar levels of success.

With the fight against desertification in the area, the regions began to see increased rainfall, as well as more resilient and fertile agricultural spaces.

But the ecological impact is not the only focus of this project, as the scheme also aims to empower and develop the surrounding communities.

By 2030, the initiative aims to restore 100 million hectares of land that is currently degraded, as well as "sequester" 250 million tons of carbon and create 10 million green jobs. All of this will bring even more benefits to the communities that live around the Great Wall.

Britain’s Prince William recently announced the launch of the Earthshot Award, which will offer £ 5 million for good environmental ideas

As with the Nobel Prize, the Earthshot Prize will offer from 2021 five prizes of 1 million pounds annually, for the next 10 years, with the aim of supporting 50 solutions to the world’s biggest environmental problems.

The Award is centred on five ‘Earthshots’ – which are the goals that must be achieved by 2030, with the aim of improving the lives of all of us, for this and the next generations.

The five categories are: “Protect and restore nature”; “Clean the air we breathe”; “Recovering the oceans”; “Building a world without waste” and “Improving the climate”.

Each Earthshot is supported by scientific goals, including the UN Sustainable Development Goals and other internationally recognized measures to help our planet.

Who can participate?

Any individual, team or partnership, including scientists, activists, economists, governments, business leaders and even cities or countries, can compete for the award.

Each winner will receive a contribution of one million pounds to support contemplated environmental and conservation projects, in addition to  benefiting from high visibility and support for the large-scale implementation of their solution.

The award’s board is formed by a global team of influential personalities, from different sectors of society, all committed to promoting positive actions in the environmental area. Today, the board, together with Prince William and Sir David Attenborough – British naturalist:

–  Her Majesty, Queen Rania Al Abdullah (Jordan);

–  Cate Blanchett – actress, filmmaker and humanitarian activist (Australia);

–  Christiana Figueres – Former head of climate at the UN, responsible for the historic Paris Agreement (Costa Rica);

–  Daniel Alves – soccer player (Brazil);

–  Sir David Attenborough – television presenter, writer and naturalist (United Kingdom);

–  Hindou Oumarou Ibrahim – environmentalist (Chad);

–  Indra Nooyi – executive, former president and CEO of PepsiCo (USA and India);

–  Jack Ma – philanthropist, businessman and UNSDG ambassador (China);

–  Naoko Yamazaki – ex-astronaut aboard the International Space Station (Japan);

–  Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala – economist and specialist in international development (Nigeria);

–  Shakira – singer and philanthropist (Colombia);

–  Yao Ming – member of the Basketball Hall of Fame and environmentalist (China).

Check out the Award launch video: