Sustainability: The Great Green Wall in Africa

Carolina Hernandez

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“Desertification is happening in the entire world and it is caused by human actions”

Sossusvlei, Namibia // by Sonse
Sossusvlei, Namibia // by Sonse

It is true, Earth is increasing its temperature faster every day, and the cause of the accumulation of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere is humans. Even if not everybody believes in it, the global warming exists, and now it is up to humans to create new economic models and different sustainable ways of living.

At the end nothing really matters if climate change is not taken seriously; if humanity does not learn to live a more sustainable life, to understand that not only humans live in this planet and that all leaving beings are connected, needing each other to survive.

Animals Namibia // by Sonse
Animals Namibia // by Sonse

Sustainability can be described as; a development that is capable to cover today’s needs for an intact environment, social justice and economic prosperity, without limiting the ability of future generations to meet their needs. The preservation of the natural environment is a prerequisite for a well-functioning economy and social justice. It is crucial to understand that sustainability is not only centred on the environmental impact.

One impressive example of sustainability occurs in the Sahel region, at the southern edge of the Sahara desert, where the inhabitants are learning to grow food where it seemed impossible. It is a remarkable example for all humanity, created to change millions of lives in Africa. The project is called The Great Green Wall.

What is The Great Green Wall?

The Great Green Wall is an African-led project with an epic ambition: to grow an 8,000km natural wonder of the world across the entire width of Africa. Its goal is to provide food, jobs and a future for the millions of people who live in a region on the frontline of climate change. Once complete, the Wall will be the largest living structure on the planet – an 8000km natural wonder of the world stretching across the entire width of the Continent.

This project is growing a new world wonder across the entire width of Africa, by growing fertile land that creates food security for the inhabitants, economic opportunities to boost small business and commercial enterprise and growing resilience to climate change in a region where temperatures are expected to rise faster than anywhere else on Earth.

The initiative is supported since 2008 by 12 African countries, the World Bank, the European Union, the African Union Commission and Venture Three. With their support, The United Nations created The Local Environmental Coalition for a Green Union and the Public Awareness Campaign, both projects aim to strengthen the capacities of local communities to help boost investments in land restoration and create employment opportunities for The Great Green Wall.

To increase the project’s value, the UN wanted to create a film that would showcase and ultimately raise funds for the project during the COP21 Climate change event in Paris in January 2016. The film Growing a World Wonder was created to transport world leaders to the frontline of the issue in Senegal by creating a compelling story watching the communities along the ‘wall’, sharing its story in a way that feels spectacular but also tangible on a human level.

To tell the story, Venture Three agency used drones, zip wires and Steadicam shots that had never been tried before in documentary VR format. The result was a complete success which amazed the COP21 world leaders and heads of international agencies, pledging US$4 billion over five years to step up the initiative.

However, according to The Guardian “by 2020, 60 million people from sub-Saharan Africa are expected to migrate because of desertification”. This project on the making will only be completed until the next generation and is hoping to stop the migration in the area by creating more jobs, food and improving a land deteriorated by climate change. Nevertheless, opponents claim that the land is not sufficiently fertile due to the increasing temperatures and overgrazing.

Desertification is happening in the entire world and it is caused by human actions. In Africa the increase of the dessert is affecting humans, animals, and mainly grasslands, accelerating climate change and causing traditional grazing societies to descend into social chaos. However, the Zimbabwean ecologist Allan Savory, have proved that increasing the cattle in the region helped the Green Wall to achieve its goal.

Against all odds, The Great Green Wall is already working in Ethiopia, Sudan and Senegal, where the inhabitants of the region are embracing its benefits by working in the field and reducing the migration due to the ascertainable progress of the wall. Progress is also been made in Nigeria, where 5 million hectares of degraded land have been restored and 20,000 jobs created. Nevertheless, the full benefits of implementation in terms of climate resilience or mitigation potential have yet to be realized.

Not every country where the Great Green Wall spreads is achieving the same results for different reasons, but scientists believe that change is possible. They expect that by 2030, the new phase of the initiative restores 50 million hectares of land; sequester 250 million tons of carbon; support 300 million people in communities across the Sahel, and provide access for 10 million smallholder farmers to climate resilient agricultural technologies.

African Tribe // by William Warby
African Tribe // by William Warby

Sustainability is a popular word now, unfortunately not every person understand its meanings and applications to life, and it is a development of actions that need to be work towards daily, to help the social well-being, the environment and the economy of the planet.

Projects as The Great Green Wall are crucial to moving forward towards a functional and balanced society, there are more sustainable projects arising and achieving the standards needed to evolve into a new society as; The Sherbourne Common in Toronto, The Khoo Teck Puat Hospital in Singapore or The 100 Trees Complex in Shanghai. However, there are always obstructions of progress, as local governments, climate change, uninformed society or adversity.

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Carolina Hernandez