What is the line in africa

The big, green wall: what about Africa's flagship project?

Large and green, the wall should stretch through Africa - from Senegal's coast on the Atlantic Ocean all the way to eastern Ethiopia. A 15-kilometer-wide and 7,775-kilometer-long ribbon of trees with a clear goal: to keep the Sahara from spreading further and further across the continent and thus depriving millions of people of their livelihood.

At least that is the vision of the African Union (AU), which launched the initiative in 2007. "The great green wall is an inspiring and ambitious attempt to find an urgent solution to two of the great challenges of the 21st century, namely desertification and the loss of fertile land," said Janani Vivekananda, climate change advisor at adelphi, a think tank for climate, environment and development.

Work and income against rural exodus

The green wall is more than just an environmental project: by 2030, 100 million hectares of currently barren land in the Sahel region are to be restored, 250 million tons of carbon bound and ten million green jobs created. "It's not just about planting trees in the Sahel region, but also about tackling issues such as climate change, drought, famine, conflicts, migration and land degradation," Vivekananda explains in an interview with DW.

The "Green Wall" is to run through eleven countries

"Many people get work through such a project, the trees bring fruit and wood," says climate expert Hans-Josef Fell, President of the Energy Watch Group. In the shade of the forest, the soil can also be used for agriculture. "Creating work and income is one of the most important measures to combat the causes of displacement in the region."

Back to traditional methods

According to the plan, eleven countries would cross the green belt. But the idea has also found supporters: a total of 20 countries have pledged support for the mammoth project. The European Commission, for example, has already invested more than seven million euros.

But according to the United Nations, the initiative has only achieved 15 percent of its target after a little more than a decade. "Progress is slow, but we learned a lot along the way," says climate consultant Vivekananda. In the meantime, science has shown that a continuous wall is not a good idea per se, otherwise trees would also be planted where there were no people Instead, local initiatives have been formed to use traditional methods to preserve the trees that already exist and thus, for example, secure the supply of water.

Cripple corruption and terrorism

"The project is successful in some areas and less so in others," states climate expert Fell. Since 2007, according to the UN, Ethiopia in particular has made great progress: According to this, the country has restored around 15 million hectares of deserted soil. "This is mainly because President Abiy Ahmed has put reforestation at the top of his agenda," Fell said in an interview with DW. Successes in the fight against desertification can also be reported from Nigeria: five million hectares of land have been restored and 20,000 jobs have been created in the process. In Senegal, too, more than 11 million trees were planted, making 25,000 hectares of land fertile again.

Tree nursery in Senegal

However, the situation is different in many countries in Central Africa, says Fell. The project is not going as well here. "Terrorism is very strong here and paralyzes human efforts and aid organizations. Corruption also plays a role if the money goes into politicians' own pockets rather than into project development."
Nevertheless, around 120 communities in Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger have jointly created a green belt on more than 2,500 hectares of formerly deserted land and planted more than two million seeds and saplings of fifty native tree species there.

Africa way behind plan

For conflict-ridden countries like Burkina Faso, the lack of funding is a particularly big problem. The transnational Great Green Wall initiative is currently not investing there due to the security situation. Janani Vivekananda thinks this is unwise: “The project would be a good way to create peace. But if investments are only made in stable states, then it harms the weakest, who without investment are exposed to both further conflict and climate change. "Ultimately, this increases the inequality between stable and fragile states," says Vivekananda.

In conflict-ridden countries like Burkina Faso, there is a lack of money for the Green Wall

It is now up to the African governments to recognize the initiative as an important motor, demands Hans-Josef Fell. "But it is going too slowly, Africa is far behind the plan, what is necessary must be put on the road much more quickly. This requires concentrated action in development cooperation and by local governments," said Fell.

A rich mosaic of different initiatives

Nevertheless, the climate expert believes that the green dream can become a reality. However, this presupposes certain basics, explains Fell: Education and training for the population, as well as money for the first measures such as irrigation. In addition, there is the fight against corruption and terrorism. Because that destroys the activities of the population massively. "

If African governments concentrate on these steps, then in ten years a living wonder of the world could actually blossom across Africa, also believes Vivekananda: “If enough work is put into the green wall, then we may soon not have a continuous wall, but one instead rich mosaic of different initiatives that contribute to people's livelihood and food safety. If women and young people are also included, then the great, green wall will be a success by 2030. "