The Good, Bad, and Nerdy: The Great Green Wall

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Submitted Liz Clarey - A Pennsylvania voter living in the Czech Republic.

The Great Green Wall is an international initiative to regrow the once-fertile Sahel region, which stretches across the African continent on the southern edge of the Sahara. This area faces desertification due to climate change and unsustainable farming practices. The Great Green Wall was created in 2007 not only to combat global warming but to create jobs, grow food, and combat poverty across the continent. The African Union leads the initiative in partnership with 20 African countries, the World Bank, the European Commission, and others.

 The Good:

The Great Green Wall aims to restore 100 million hectares of degraded land, capture 250 million tons of CO2 and create 10 million jobs, all by 2030. It is Africa’s most ambitious reforestation project. Ethiopia has been a success story: the country has planted 5.5 billion seedlings on 151,000 hectares of new forest and 792,000 new terraces.

The Bad:

As of 2020, more than ten years after the program's start, the GGW had only planted 4 million hectares after an initial investment of $200 million. To achieve the GGW goal by 2030, this work needs to be doubled each year and requires an additional investment of $4.3 billion per year. The program's progress varies considerably by country, and one of the most pressing problems is the lack of sufficient monitoring and evaluation.

The Nerdy:

Experience showed that just planting trees was not effective. Luckily, the GGW has evolved to account for this. Where the initial idea was a wall of trees, the project has morphed into implementing various sustainable land use practices like water harvesting techniques, agroforestry, and regenerative agriculture. One large success has been the use of indigenous farming practices. These were initially discouraged by colonial legal frameworks but have proven to be the most effective in terms of growing yield and minimal land damage. Though the project might not succeed in terms of initial goals, it provides an example of the kind of multinational cooperation, flexibility, and community engagement needed to combat a changing climate.