The Great Green Wall Is The Utopian Project That Could Save Earth

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As rainforests are burning and desertification is spreading, a massive utopian project is underway in one among the most environmentally degraded parts of the world — and it has the potential to serve as a model for saving the world.

The Great Green Wall Is The Utopian Project That Could Save Earth

As rainforests are burning and desertification is spreading, a massive utopian project is underway in one among the most environmentally degraded parts of the world — and it has the potential to serve as a model for saving the world.


The Great Green Wall of Africa is an initiative seemingly pulled from a kid’s book, with all the big-picture thinking that entails. It's aiming to plant trees and restore landscapes across one of the widest sections of Africa — an area also known as the Sahel that stretches 8 thousand km, or 5,000 miles — creating a “wall” of verdant ecosystems in the process.


According to the Global Citizen, the Great Green Wall of Africa is about more than restoring degraded land. It is about revitalizing communities and fostering sustainable economies, with the understanding that a healthy environment is the bedrock of any healthy society.


The Sahel region of Africa — spanning ten countries with a combined population of over 300 million — is beset by a dizzying array of challenges. Tens of millions of people live with chronic hunger. The conflict between and within countries regularly flares up. A general lack of opportunities leads young people to migrate to other parts of the world, often further contributing to geopolitical tensions.


And intertwined with everything is the degradation of the natural world. Few places on Earth have been as heavily affected by the consequences of climate change as the Sahel region.


Severe droughts, floods, and heatwaves over the past several decades have ravaged agricultural systems. Small-scale farmers who could once rely upon predictable weather patterns have seen their crops wither and get destroyed with increasing frequency. As agricultural systems have faltered, poverty, hunger, and conflict have risen.


In Ethiopia, severe drought has led millions of people into food insecurity. In South Sudan, the breakdown of agriculture has helped to fuel widespread conflict. Meanwhile, Nigeria has recently become the country with the highest number of people living in extreme poverty. Over 80% of jobs in that region are in agriculture, which means the economic repercussions of climate change grow every year.


The Great Green Wall was established as a project back in 2007 to fight all of these challenges as part of its holistic approach to development. This project, which has the support of twenty countries in Africa, also receives financial backing from the UN Development Programme, the World Bank, and the African Forest Forum. The project received $4 billion in 2015 at the United Nations Climate Conference in Paris, with further commitments from countries like France.


The Great Green Wall aims to


  • break the vicious cycles of migration that are draining societies of youth;
  • improve soil quality for farmers that would allow crops to withstand hostile conditions better;
  • restore sources of water to combat drought;
  • create wildlife corridors to revitalize ecosystems and become hubs of tourism;
  • generate millions of green economy jobs;
  • boost economies;
  • establish a carbon sink to fight climate change;
  • ease the conditions that lead to violence.

The Great Green Wall is already bearing fruit.


In Senegal, over 12 million drought-resistant trees have been planted. Over 15 million hectares of land have been restored in Ethiopia, five million hectares in Nigeria, and five million in Niger. In Burkina Faso, local communities have used traditional practices to restore three million hectares of land.


Getting to this goal won’t be easy. Roughly 15 percent of the Great Green Wall has been completed since work started over ten years ago. Reaching the 2030 goal requires significant financial support from countries across the world and private sector partners. Furthermore, countries across the Sahel need to dedicate more resources to the project and foster job creation by developing supply chains and markets for the people benefiting from the rejuvenated landscapes.


The return on investment of the wall seems self-evident — fighting climate change, promoting sustainable economic development, and ending conflict. While walls are increasingly being used as barriers between countries, the architects of the Great Green Wall envision a transnational band of thriving life which unifies rather than divides.


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Thinking Humanity: The Great Green Wall Is The Utopian Project That Could Save Earth
The Great Green Wall Is The Utopian Project That Could Save Earth
As rainforests are burning and desertification is spreading, a massive utopian project is underway in one among the most environmentally degraded parts of the world — and it has the potential to serve as a model for saving the world.
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