Washington, July 9 : Preparations for an African 'wall of trees' to slow down the southwards spread of the Sahara desert are getting underway.
North African nations have been promoting the idea of a Green Belt since 2005. The project has been scaled down to reinforce and then expand on existing efforts, and will not be a continent-wide wall of trees, despite the name of the project.
According to a report in ENN (Environmental News Network), the 'Great Green Wall' will involve several stretches of trees from Mauritania in the west to Djibouti in the east, to protect the semi-arid savannah region of the Sahel, and its agricultural land, from desertification.
A plan for the proposed 3 million dollar, two-year initial phase of the project, which involves a belt of trees 7,000 kilometres long and 15 kilometres wide, was formally adopted at the Community of Sahel-Saharan States (Cen-Sad) summit on rural development and food security in Cotonou, Benin, last month (17-18 June).
The Green Wall will involve two planting projects on the east and west sides of Africa.
The Inter-State Committee for Drought Control in the Sahel region (CILSS) is working with scientific consultants and representatives from the arid nations of Burkina Faso, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria and Senegal to launch pilot planting projects planned for September.
Another planting programme, including Chad, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia and Sudan, should be finalized within two months under the auspices of six states in the Horn of Africa, linked through the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD).
According to Mariam Aladji Boni Diallo, the Benin-based president of the Cen-Sad summit organising committee, the Green Wall should consist of more than just trees.
"Reforestation, restoration of natural resources and the eventual development of fishing and livestock breeding were priorities for the project," said Diallo.