Africa’s Great Green Wall, or more formally The Great Green Wall for the Sahara and the Sahel Initiative, is the intriguing but misleading name of an enormously ambitious and worthwhile initiative to improve life and resilience in the drylands that surround the Sahara.
The idea of a Great Green Wall has come a long way since its inception. Its origin goes back to colonial times. In 1927, the French colonial forester Louis Lavauden coined the word desertification to suggest that deserts are spreading due to deforestation, overgrazing and arid land degradation. In 1952 the English forester Richard St. Barbe Baker suggested that a “green front” in the form of a 50km wide barrier of trees be erected to contain the spreading desert.
Droughts in the Horn of Africa and the Sahel from the 1970s onwards gave wings to the idea, and in 2007 the African Union approved the Great Green Wall Initiative. Many perceived it as a plan to build an almost 8,000km long, 15km wide, wall of trees across the African continent – from Senegal in the west to Djibouti in the east.
Originally posted on 18 June 2017 in The Conversation.