Africa’s Building a Wall That’s Actually Worth Building

Though a border wall with Mexico is currently a matter of serious discussion in the United States, the aim of which is to prevent the physical movement of people (with few other apparent “benefits”), some walls can actually bring together and preserve communities, rather than divide them.

In only five years, the UN says, around 60 million Africans may be displaced as their land ceases to be arable, a potential humanitarian disaster the scale of which would be unprecedented. This would be devastating to a huge portion of the African continent not only ecologically and economically but socially as well.

That’s where Africa’s ingenious Great Green Wall comes in.

Experts at the United Nations say without action, desertification may claim two-thirds of Africa’s farmlands in under a decade. The Great Green Wall, however, was conceived as a wide-reaching strategy to halt Northern Africa’s rapidly advancing Sahara Desert.

The Great Green Wall, once complete, will stretch an incredible 4,400 miles from Senegal in West Africa to the East African nation of Djibouti. Instead of bricks and mortar, the wall will be made of trees and other vegetation, including plants that can be eaten or used to create medicine.

Originally proposed in 2005 by Nigeria and adopted by the African Union in 2007, the massive undertaking is now approximately 15 percent complete. So far, Senegal has done the most to lead the initiative, however villages in Niger, Mali and Burkina Faso have made contributions as well.

For Africa’s transcontinental Great Green Wall project, preserving essential farmlands and ecosystems are only a few of the anticipated benefits. According to UN Convention to Combat Desertification’s Camila Nordheim-Larsen, the wall “is about more than just planting and counting trees.”

Nordheim-Larsen believes the wall will provide numerous communities new paths to “building resilience.” Reinforcing communities to be further sustainable while providing its youth the means to live and provide for themselves is crucial, she says.

If young people have access to economic opportunities, they will be less inclined to abandon their communities. Not only that, but it means fewer young, disaffected young men looking for meaning and belonging — the exact demographic that violent militant groups like Nigeria’s Boko Haram target to find new recruits.

According to the Global Environment Facility, a group sponsoring many of the individual projects encompassed by the Great Green Wall initiative, the nations of Sahel Africa make around 40 percent of their GDP from agriculture and husbandry — activities increasingly impacted by desertification.

With such a huge portion of these African nations’ economy facing major risk, there is good cause to be worried about destabilization and the growing influence of terrorist groups. Experts have pointed out these factors and how they are linked — it’s happened before in the form of a series of the Middle Eastern and North African political upheavals dubbed the “Arab Spring.”

Droughts affecting some of the world’s top wheat and grain exporters in 2010, including Russia and China, lead to the prices of basic staples climbing swiftly in many import nations, especially in the Middle East.

In countries like Egypt or Syria where citizens (young people, in particular) were already facing limited economic opportunities, these new pressures pushed citizens’ frustration and anger at one’s government to new heights. Leaders were deposed and, in Syria’s case, a bloody civil war began.

It is not difficult to envision a similar series of events unfolding in the largely impoverished Sahel nations. That’s what makes the Great Green Wall the cleverly holistic solution Africa needs — environmentally, economically, politically and socially.

Though it’s true that endorsement for the Great Green Wall comes from the top of nations’ government, a criticism that’s been leveled against the initiative, the implementation is being organized and executed by communities on a local level. The aim is to make the Great Green Wall a generational, long-term project stewarded by hundreds, if not thousands, of cities, towns and villages.

Not all walls are built to divide and separate people. Africa’s brilliant Great Green Wall turns that notion on its head and may one day shine as one of humanity’s greatest achievements.

Photo Credit: YouTube

78 comments

Jack Y
Jack Y8 months ago

thanks

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Jack Y
Jack Y8 months ago

thanks

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John J
John J8 months ago

thanks for sharing

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John J
John J8 months ago

thanks for sharing

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Siyus Copetallus
Siyus Copetallus2 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

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Rosslyn O.
Rosslyn O2 years ago

A wall that brings people together is good, but a green wall of food, medicinal plants, community pride & helping to save the environment is just wonderful. Congratulations on a plan well thought out. Please keep us up to date on this. Hoping to hear the 40 to 50% complete soon.

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Maggie A.
Maggie D2 years ago

An ignorant pro-illegal immigration article that misses the main point. African's building a "Great Green Wall" to provide for their people is not the same thing as preventing illegal immigration that deprives citizen's of the opportunity to provide for themselves. In case you've forgotten, the “Arab Spring" was one of Obama's disastrous ideas.

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Alice Mullen
Alice Mullen2 years ago

This is the kind of thing foreigners need to read about the continent of Africa. Yay for the Great Green Wall and all those planning, implementing and contributing to its construction.

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Carole R.
Carole R2 years ago

Thanks for posting.

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Marie W.
Marie W2 years ago

Would it really work?

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