11 African Countries Are Building a “Great Green Wall of Africa” to Stop the Spread of the Sahara Desert

Sub-Saharan Africa has some of the best farmland and in the world. So naturally, the vast majority of food production in Africa takes place there.

However, the Sahara desert has been slowly spreading south, covering previously fertile lands with sand and absorbing them into the desert in a process known as desertification.

A UN report from 2007 estimated that if the desertification is left unchecked, 2/3 of Africa’s arable land will be covered with sand by the year 2025. It is this rapid spreading of the Sahara that inspired the idea for the Great Green Wall of Africa.

Satellite image of the Sahara Desert

First proposed about 50 years ago, the concept didn’t really get substantial consideration until just over a decade ago. The basic idea is to make a wall of trees and vegetation to create a buffer against the wind-blown sand, stopping the Sahara’s southward spread.

The Great Green Wall will be 4,750 miles long and 9 miles wide when it is completed. 11 African countries are working together to make it happen: Senegal, Mauritania, Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger, Nigeria, Chad, Sudan, Eritrea, Ethiopia, and Djibouti.

Proposed layout of the Great Green Wall (click to enlarge)

Proposed layout of the Great Green Wall (click to enlarge)

Protection from the sand won’t be the only benefit though.

Besides bringing thousands of jobs to people living in poverty, the project is also attracting large numbers of scientists, medical professionals and tourists to the area and turning previously unusable land into gardens and nurseries.

Read more from Atlas Obscura here.

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