• sciandenvironment

Taking Root: Africa’s Great Green Wall

An effort to bring back the vegetation and fertilisation properties of the Sahara desert.


By Matthew Sheppard


Photo courtesy of Fabian Struwe from Unsplash.


The Great Green wall is an initiative spearheaded by the African Union and funded by various organisations including the World Bank, the European Union and the United Nations. The mission has the monumental aim to restore an 8000km wide section of greenery spanning the entire African continent in the fight against desertification and climate change.

The Sahara Desert is recognisable worldwide for its golden sand dunes and harsh uninhabitable environment. It would therefore seem impossible that this environment may once have been home to a variety of plants and animals. However, recent evidence in the form of ancient paintings suggest that in the past, this unrelenting desert was once a fertile land, capable of supporting an abundance of life. This discovery sparked the idea for the implementation of the wall in a bid to restore this once plentiful environment into its former glory.

The movement started in 2007 in Africa’s Sahel region, known to be one of the poorest regions on the planet. The project has since provided invaluable aid in the fight against desertification. By 2030, it is aimed to restore 100 million hectares of currently degraded land and sequester 250 million tons of carbon while providing 10 million green jobs to individuals spanning 20 African countries. The wall snakes across the Sahel region in the West over to Djibouti in the East of Africa. Findings recorded in 2020 have provided varying levels of success, with Mali and Niger providing the greatest area of implementation.

By 2030, it is aimed to restore 100 million hectares of currently degraded land and sequester 250 million tons of carbon while providing 10 million green jobs to individuals spanning 20 African countries. The wall snakes across the Sahel region in the West over to Djibouti in the East of Africa.

The mission has received funding from a variety of sources including the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD). The UNCCD were involved In the creation of a flagship initiative called the FLEUVE project. This project is aimed at reinforcing the capacities of local communities to aid them in their fight against land degradation while simultaneously delivering green jobs, providing individuals living in poverty with life changing opportunities. Although this project has received finance totalling EUR 7 million from 2014-2019 the project is largely driven by locals in the targeted communities.

Further micro-investment projects have also been implemented under the FLEUVE project in over 20 communities spanning five Sahel countries, including Burkina Faso, Senegal, Niger, Mali and Chad. These projects were harmonised by the operation of regional-level activities aimed at providing communities living in the desert with education on sustainable land management to prevent further desertification and the extension of the Sahara. The project has also encouraged the linking of sustainable value chains, working within the private sector to connect with women working in rural environments providing them with the opportunity to sell dryland goods, such as rice and vegetables to retailers at a fair price.

Further support has been received from the Irish government in the form of a EUR 1.2 million grant to support the development of the Great Green Wall. This will be divided to fund what is known as a “State of the Great Green Wall” Landmark report, which will provide detailed analysis on the current state of the wall to document progress. Further money will be invested into developing a portfolio of transformative projects in progress along the wall to entice future donors.

Public awareness is a factor that can provide invaluable aid to the development of the wall and of its future success. The UNCCD is therefore bringing this aspect to the forefront and launched their public awareness campaign. The campaign is titled “Growing a World Wonder” and seeks to boost global awareness of the wall in both the public and private spheres as well as media and cultural sectors to boost public knowledge and encourage private investment. This has already proved highly successful through reaching millions globally through high-level events and media outreach.

It is without doubt that the Green Wall has brought about monumental breakthroughs in the fight against desertification and climate change; the movement has also brought about significant economic improvements for many communities living within this impoverished region, providing them with educational opportunities and the ability to learn sustainable lifestyle practises to prevent further land degradation. Although, the question must be asked, is it enough? The fast-approaching threat of irreversible climate change is fast becoming one of the most prominent issues faced by today’s generation. Movements such as the Great Green Wall provide invaluable aid in slowing this threat down although further action and investment is undoubtedly required from global leaders to prevent further devastation of the Earth’s climate.