“Extreme heatwave, desertification and great famine, rising ocean temperatures destroying the sea, large wildfires that have become routine, ever-worsening air pollution, pandemic in multiple places, and economic collapse. Disasters are part of life now,” David Wallace-Wells shares shocking facts in his book titled “The Uninhabitable Earth.”
The Sahel in the southern Sahara Desert in Africa experiences the most frequent conflicts and produces the largest number of refugees while many residents in the region are starving due to food shortage. The Sahara in the north has been expanding to the south due to climate change, damaging the forest and further desertifying the land.
“Less than one percent of Algeria, which is located near the Sahara, is forest while Ethiopia’s forest area is only 2.5 percent of its territory at the moment compared to 50 percent in the past,” said the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, estimating that 20 million people in the Sahel are facing famine as a result of worsening desertification, in line with the United Nations Environment Programme.
Under such circumstances, the African Union proposed a creative idea in 2007 to create a super-size forest crossing 11 African countries to restore the devastated southern region of the Sahara from climate change and desertification. Over 20 countries in Africa, including Ethiopia and Mali, joined the project named the Great Green Wall for the Sahara and the Sahel Initiative (GGWSSI). The plan was to build a grand wall of a forest – 15 kilometers wide and 7,775 kilometers long – from Senegal in the southern end of Africa to Djibouti in the northern end of the continent. Once finished, it will be 1,300 kilometers longer than the Great Wall of China, hence the nickname of "Great Green Wall of Africa." The project began with about 4.8 trillion won funded by numerous partner organizations, such as the World Bank.
The project’s goal is to restore the land and reverse climate change by building a wall of trees. Blocking the southern expansion of the Sahara will enable food crops to grow around the green wall. The project involves a number of residents as not only planting but also taking care of trees is important. The U.N. announced that the project will restore about 100 million hectares of depleted land, remove 250 million tons of carbon in the air, and creates at least 350,000 jobs in the rural region by 2030. In fact, the devastated land in many countries has been restored. For example, the World Food Programme announced that Niger now produces 500,000 tons of grain per year, which is enough to feed 2.5 million people. Once the residents of the Sahel who were forced out of their homes due to climate change settle in the region, economic and political stability will improve.
Meanwhile, the Indian government also announced a plan to build a green wall, following Africa’s example. The country intends to build a 1,400-kilometer-long green wall in the western region of New Delhi to stop the southern expansion of the Thar Desert. As seen in these cases, desertification, which is one of the ways how climate change manifests, is a matter of survival for a lot of countries. Their efforts to address the issue is proof of how serious climate change is. There is no time to hesitate. Everyone should join to stop climate change.