Africans are building a Great Green Wall of trees across the continent to slow down the Saharan
via Afar
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Twenty-one African countries have come together in an attempt to stop the Sahara desert from encroaching further south. Their mission: plant a 4,750-mile-long wall of trees.

When completed, the Great Green Wall will extend from sea to sea and reclaim 247 million acres. It'll stretch from Senegal in the west to Djibouti in the east, and will be three times the size of the Great Barrier Reef. The massive reforestation project will sequester 250 million tons of carbon.

The countries hope to have the wall completed by 2030.

The Sahara in northern Africa is the world's largest desert (as large as the U.S.) and renowned for it's extreme temperatures. A peer-reviewed study by the journal Climate found that between 1920 and 2013, the desert has expanded southward by 10%. The study says its expansion has been caused by man-made climate change as well as natural climate cycles such as the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation.

If the situation is allowed to continue, the desert is likely to expand into the more fertile parts of Africa.


The southern border of the Sahara is an area called the Sahel, an arid transition zone that is a point of demarcation between the desert, and the more lush, fertile savanna to the south. As the Sahara expands, the Sahel retreats, resulting in a mass migration of people, and a major disruption of the region's fertile grasslands.

via Wikimedia Commons

The initiative began in 2007 and 15% of the trees have been planted.

Ethiopia: 36 million acres of degraded land restored, land tenure security improved

Senegal: 11.4 million trees planted, 6200 acres of degraded land restored

Nigeria: 12 million acres of degraded land restored and 20, 000 jobs created

Sudan: 5,000 acres of land restored

Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger: Approximately 120 communities have come together to plant a green belt over more than 6200 acres of degraded and dry lands. More than two million seeds and seedlings have been planted from fifty native species of trees.

The wall is made with drought-resistant trees that protect the soil from erosion, act as a barrier to the coarse Saharan winds and filter rainwater back into the ground. These newly green areas have created farming land for the indigenous people to plant vegetable gardens.

The Green Wall also safeguards the indigenous people against potential environmental problems. Patches of seedlings can become emergency food for cattle when the rains are late, fruit from the trees can be harvested or sold and trees can be cut for firewood.

The project has also resulted in thousands of jobs for area residents. This has helped to curb the large migration of people from the Sahel.

The Great Green Wall is another project that shows how doing something good for the environment can have a ripple effect that helps an entire region heal economically and culturally.

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Davina Agudelo was born in Miami, Florida, but she grew up in Medellín, Colombia.

"I am so grateful for my upbringing in Colombia, surrounded by mountains and mango trees, and for my Colombian family," Agudelo says. "Colombia is the place where I learned what's truly essential in life." It's also where she found her passion for the arts.

While she was growing up, Colombia was going through a violent drug war, and Agudelo turned to literature, theater, singing, and creative writing as a refuge. "Journaling became a sacred practice, where I could leave on the page my dreams & longings as well as my joy and sadness," she says. "During those years, poetry came to me naturally. My grandfather was a poet and though I never met him, maybe there is a little bit of his love for poetry within me."

In 1998, when she left her home and everyone she loved and moved to California, the arts continued to be her solace and comfort. She got her bachelor's degree in theater arts before getting certified in journalism at UCLA. It was there she realized the need to create a media platform that highlighted the positive contributions of LatinX in the US.

"I know the power that storytelling and writing our own stories have and how creative writing can aid us in our own transformation."

In 2012, she started Alegría Magazine and it was a great success. Later, she refurbished a van into a mobile bookstore to celebrate Latin American and LatinX indie authors and poets, while also encouraging children's reading and writing in low-income communities across Southern California.

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