A lack of funding and political will as well as rising insecurity linked to extremist groups al-Qaida and the Islamic State in Burkina Faso, are obstructing progress on Africa’s Great Green Wall, according to experts involved in the initiative.
The plan was to build an 8000-kilometer (4970-mile) long forest through 11 nations across the width of Africa to hold back the ever-growing Sahara Desert and fend off climate change impact. Just 4 million hectares (9.9 million acres) of land has been afforested since work on the Green Wall began 15 years ago — a mere 4% of the program’s ultimate goal.
First proposed in 2005, the program aims to plant a forest all the way from Senegal on the Atlantic Ocean in the west to Eritrea, Ethiopia and Djibouti in the east. It’s hoped the initiative will create millions of green jobs in rural Africa, reduce levels of climate-related migration in the region and capture hundreds of millions of tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Several countries have struggled to keep up with the demands of the project, with Mali, Nigeria, Djibouti and Mauritania in particular lagging behind.
The U.N. desertification agency says up to 45% of Africa’s land is impacted by desertification, making it more vulnerable than any other continent.
“By restoring land, you reduce conflicts and irregular migration. There is a link between land restoration and irregular migration,” said Ibrahim Thiaw, head of the U.N. desertification agency. “Land restoration is a no-regrets option in that any effort to recover soil health, replenish natural capital and restore land health will deliver benefits that far exceed the costs.”