The Sahara Desert has been advancing at an alarming rate over the past few decades. Fueled by wide spread drought that has been intensified by climate change and deforestation throughout North Africa, the Sahara’s advancement is becoming a life and death struggle for it’s local communities. The challenge is easy to see; stop the spread of the world’s largest desert. The reality; the almost insurmountable task of asking some of the most poverty-stricken and technologically-challenged regions of the world to fight a battle so large that it can be seen from space.
There is a solution: Creating a Great Green Wall. Yacouba Sawadogo, the “Man who stopped the desert”; started to conduct experiments back in 1980 using traditional farming techniques to restore degraded soils. Through using restorative nature to combat destructive nature a goal was set to plant a barrier of trees that stretched over 7000 km long and 15 km wide. The communities were challenged to work together to establish a trans-boundary forest, over multiple nations, which would serve as fortification from the desertification of their homelands.
The project was launched in 2005 and has faced many challenges: Completing planning efforts; securing project funding; agreeing upon a long-term perspective; and ensuring the continuous interest of all governments involved, has taken many years. Adding to the already great efforts needed for a project of this scale, the political instability throughout the different countries continued to threaten to undermine the project.
Fast forward to 2012, the initiative is thriving! Consisting of thousands of small projects, the natural barrier is strong and well articulated along the length of the boundary. The implementation of agroforestry and diversified practices, instead of the planting of monocultures, has allowed incredible enhancements in biodiversity, watershed management, mitigation of soil erosion, and food security for each region. These re-greening actions have not only managed to change the perception of environmental issues faced among the population, they have also made great improvements in the living conditions and income levels of local communities.
Thanks to the efforts of Yacouba Sawadogo, the re-discovered technique he applied is now widely used across Burkina Faso and has made possible the recovery of thousands of hectares of degraded land. The Great Green Wall has created a buffer zone from encroaching desert while providing the communities with sustainable resources to harvest for generations.
Global Green Carbon’s REDD+ project in Cameroon, is also working on establishing a 15 km buffer zone around the Dja Biosphere Reserve. The buffer will be focused on innovative agroforestry and enrichment initiatives to alleviate the pressure of illegal logging, land conversion to agriculture and hunting practices throughout the Dja Biosphere Reserve. Similarly to the threat of desertification, the buffer is being created to deter the encroachment of commercial interests and unsustainable practices in the Dja.
The positive attitude and the great results obtained for this undertaking has boosted the creation of a more coordinated movement. Initially operating under the name of Sahel Re-Greening Initiative (2007), they have since re-named the movement The African Re-Greening Initiatives. If you like to discover more on the activities of the African Re-greening Activities I invite you to have a look at the following websites:
http://reseaumarpbf.org/ (in French)
http://africa-regreening.blogspot.it/search?updated-min=2012-01-01T00:00:00%2B01:00&updated-max=2013-01-01T00:00:00%2B01:00&max-results=3 (in English)
and to watch the trailer of the 1 hour documentary on the activities and achievement of Yacouba Sawadogo: http://www.1080films.co.uk/project-mwsd.htm