Twenty-one African countries have joined forces to plant a 4,750-mile-long wall of trees that will contain the Sahara desert and prevent it from expanding farther south.
The African nations hope to complete the Great Green Wall by 2030. The reforestation project will cut across the entire continent from Senegal in the west and Djibouti in the east, reclaiming 247 million acres land turning to desert due to man-made climate change in conjunction with natural climate cycles. Once complete, it will be three times the size of the Great Barrier Reef and will take 250 million tons of carbon out of the atmosphere.
The Sahara is the world’s largest desert and it is already the size of the US. If the desert continues to expand, its arid climate and extreme temperatures will become the reality for more fertile regions, dislocating humans and disrupting the ecosystem of Africa’s grasslands.
According to the United Nations, 15% of the trees have been planted since ground broke on the project in 2007.
The drought-resistant trees that make up the wall protect the soil from erosion by acting as a barrier to strong Saharan winds, filtering rainwater back into the soil. The green space created by the trees provide new farmland for indigenous peoples’ vegetable gardens.
The Great Green Wall initiative has also created thousands of jobs for Africans living in the region. The trees shore up their communities against environmental threats. If there is a drought, cattle can be fed seedlings. In other emergencies, fruit from the trees can be harvested or sold, and trees can be used for firewood.
The UN cites the project as a symbol of hope in the effort to restore the planet and help the lives of millions of people in one of the world’s poorest regions. When the wall is complete, it will be the largest living structure on the planet, and a brand new wonder of the world— wow.