Senegal planting Green Wall against climate change
July 18th 2012
Senegal’s capital city Dakar sticks out into the Atlantic Ocean on a peninsula. It’s at least a thousand miles to the Sahara desert yet the air today is so thick with sand that the tops of buildings disappear in a sandy haze. It’s the worst sand storm in a year and people here are worried that climate change will cause these events to be more common. Seasons are shifting across the region. In Senegal the rainy season used to start in July or August but now it doesn’t start until September. Decreased rain – along with over grazing of land – is causing an increase in deserts across the Sahel. Roughly 40 per cent of Africa is now affected by desertification and according to the UN, two-thirds of Africa’s arable land could be lost by 2025 if this trend continues.
Senegal is one of 11 countries in the Sahel region of Africa looking towards the same solution to the desertification problem: The Great Green Wall. The goal of the project is to plant a wall of trees, 4,300 miles long and 9 miles wide, across the African continent, from Senegal to Djibouti. African leaders hope the trees will trap the sands of the Sahara and halt the advance of the desert. Papa Sarr is Technical Director for the Great Green Wall in Senegal: ‘We are convinced that once we start to plant the wall of trees dust will decrease in Dakar,’ he says.
Everyone involved in the Great Green Wall agrees that the end goal is to help rural communities. But opinions vary on how the project will best manage to do that. African leaders envision the Great Green Wall as a literal wall of trees to keep back the desert. But scientists and development agencies see it more as a metaphorical ‘wall,’ a mosaic of different projects to alleviate poverty and improve degraded lands. The Great Green Wall has received a total of 1.8 billion dollars from the World Bank and another 108 million dollars from the Global Environment Facility. Jean-Marc Sinnassamy is a programme officer with the Global Environment Facility. ‘We do not finance a tree planting initiative,’ he says, ‘it’s more related to agriculture, rural development, food security and sustainable land management than planting trees.’ The 11 countries involved with the project are committed to making progress but there are many challenges: abject poverty, shifting seasons and political instability are top among them. The entire region is in the middle of a food crisis. The United Nation’s Food Program estimates that as many as 11 million people in the Sahel do not have enough to eat and Mali recently had a military coup.
Read the full article: The Guardian
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