Desertification in Africa – how to stop it?

3One of the biggest environmental issue is desertification. 14 % of the earth´s surface
occupy the inhospitable desert that is slowly expanding every day and threaten local population. In this article I would like to point out what are the possibilities of preventing this problem on the example of a project called the Great Green Wall of Africa.

The Sahara desert is the second largest desert of  the world covering most of North Africa. And it´s getting bigger! The United Nations estimates that, by 2025, two thirds of Africa’s arable land will be covered in Saharan sand, vastly expanding the current 9 million square kilometers.

In 2007, the leaders of 11 african states: Senegal, Mauritania, Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger, Nigeria, Chad, Sudan, Eritrea, Ethiopia and Djibouti have banded together on an unprecedented endeavor to stave off impending catastrophe. This project is called The Great Green Wall initiative, which means planting a contiguous “wall of trees” stretching 15 kilometers wide and 7 774 kilometers long, across the entire width of the African continent from Djibouti in the east to Senegal on the west.



The role of the Great Green Wall should be to slow wind gusts that carries dust and sand, water retention and prevent soil erosion. There may be planted only specific types of trees. For the project to succeed, it is crucial to plant trees that would also provide benefits for people living here. Most of trees are the acacia species Senegalia senegal, which has economic value for the commodity it produces – gum arabic, which is primarily used as a food additive. A small portion of the trees are also fruit-bearing, which when mature, will help combat the high levels of malnutrition in the country’s rural interior.


However, this idea is not so new. The Great Green Wall of Africa was designed already in 1980 and few years ago China started a similar project called China’s Three North Shelterbelt Project which should be completed in 2050 with a length of around 4 500 kilometers, which should cause growth of the number of forests by 10%! But despite big support and spending money for this project, the soil, which is very polluted, corruption and unstable Chinese economy cannot effectively help this project to be completed.

It means a big problem for african countries. When country like China has problem to finish this project, how the world´s poorest african countries can manage it? Fortunately, we know the more successful examples. These include Israel, which slowed down the desertification of the Negev desert, or project Green Belt Movement in Kenya, where they planted 51 million trees.

In my opinion, it’s very important to do projects like this, because now, desertification is a major global threat and we should try to prevent it by realizing projects like these.

If you are interested in this topic, you can also watch these videos:

Soňa Bokorová


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