Africa's tree belt takes root in Senegal

A A A

An ambitious plan to build a vast forest belt straight across Africa to contain desertification has taken root in Senegal, greening huge tracts of land with drought-tolerant tree species.

From west to east, the 15-kilometer-wide Great Green Wall (GGW) will span the continent from Senegal to Djibouti, passing through Mauritania, Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger, Nigeria, Chad, Sudan, Eritrea and Ethiopia.

In all, the coast-to-coast forest will run 7,600 kilometers (4,750 miles).

"It is a crazy project, but a touch of madness helps when conceiving something which has never been conceived," Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade said when he launched GGW at a conference of Sahel countries in 2005.

Work on Senegal's section has made rapid progress since planting began in 2008, with various species of acacia trees stretching over 535 kilometers, covering around 15,000 hectares (37,000 acres) surrounded by 5,000 kilometers of firewalls.

The idea of erecting a great wall of trees to stop the southward spread of the Sahara came amid UN forecasts that two thirds of Africa's farmland may be swallowed by Saharan sands by 2025.

International agencies have pledged to invest more than three billion dollars in building the wall.

In Senegal, the GGW is currently being funded almost entirely by the government to the tune of 1.4 million euros ($2.1 million) annually, but additional funding is expected from the European Union.

Some 140 million euros will be needed to complete the Senegalese section, which runs through the northern Tessekere-Widu rural region, according to Matar Cisse, head of the national GGW agency.

"Initially, it was just a political idea. Here we added technical content adapted to the management of each eco-system in perfect harmony with rural populations," mostly ethnic Fulani herders, he said in an interview last month.

"It is a program to fight climate change, drought, poverty," said his deputy, Pape Sarr.

In this semi-arid region where the rainy season lasts less than three months a year, locals remember the devastating droughts of 1970 and 1980.

The GGW has transformed the area, with nurseries growing the various tree species to be planted, alongside fruit and vegetable gardens tended by local women.

Water, a rare commodity, comes from wells, rain water basins and a branch of the river Senegal.

Gilles Boetsch, an anthropologist from the French National Centre of Scientific Research (NCSR) hailed the GGW's positive impact on the environment, human activities, health and diet.

He runs an observatory set up in Tessekere jointly by the NCSR and the Dakar-based Cheikh Anta Diop University, to study the project's impact. Malian and Burkinabe scientists are also involved.

Lamine Gueye, a Senegalese professor studying the health impact of the green wall, however fears it may lead to a return of mosquitoes in a region where malaria was on the decrease.

But he also noted that the influx of scientists and medical experts has given locals free access to medical care in an area where "99 percent of the people had never seen a doctor."

And every year hundreds of Senegalese students and foreigners now flock to Tessekere to plant trees and help develop this impoverished region.

News
people
News
A survey carried out by Sainsbury's Finance found 20% of new university students have never washed their own clothes, while 14% cannot even boil an egg
science...and the results are not as pointless as that sounds
Sport
Sean Abbott
cricketSean Abbott is named Australia's young cricketer of the year
News
i100
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: IT Support Analyst - Urgent - Cheshire - £25p/h

£20 - £25 per hour: Ashdown Group: The Ashdown Group have been engaged by a hu...

Sauce Recruitment: Partnership Sales Executive - TV

competitive + benefits: Sauce Recruitment: An award-winning global multi-media...

Sauce Recruitment: Account Director

£26017.21 - £32521.19 per annum + OTE $90,000: Sauce Recruitment: My client is...

Recruitment Genius: Linux Systems Administrator

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This leading provider of UK Magento hosting so...

Day In a Page

Woman who was sent to three Nazi death camps describes how she escaped the gas chamber

Auschwitz liberation 70th anniversary

Woman sent to three Nazi death camps describes surviving gas chamber
DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

The inside track on France's trial of the year

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
As provocative now as they ever were

Sarah Kane season

Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea