If you live in North America, then you’ve probably felt the effects of climate change firsthand. The sun is beating down harder than ever, melting asphalt, causing freak wildfires, and threatening to destroy entire fields of fruits and vegetables. However, North America isn’t the only one feeling a negative change in the weather. Due to exceptionally dry conditions and the overgrazing of land, many African nations are suffering some of the worst sandstorms in recent years, coating entire villages in a thick layer of sand. For many nations, the sand didn’t come from the Sahara desert, but from an increasing number of desert patches that threaten to create more sandstorms in upcoming weeks.
Desertification is quickly becoming one of the worst problems to strike Africa in recent years, with an estimated 40% of the country suffering from some stage of intense erosion. Specifically, generations of unsustainable logging, farming, and mining have left entire swathes of land barren and wasted. Without any plants, the soil quickly becomes loose, brittle, and prone to erosion. Insert a string of hot and rainless seasons, and soon enough those dry fields become lifeless deserts, too infertile to sustain life. Add a few gusts of wind, and the loose and brittle soil quickly becomes a desert sandstorm.
With the future all-but guaranteeing an increase in desertification, 11 african countries have decided to stand up for change. Senegal, a coastal nation along the northern edge of Africa, is the starting point for Africa’s Great Green Wall project. This great wall of trees, 4300 miles long and 9 miles wide, stretches from the western coast of Senegal and ends at the eastern country of Djibouti. African leaders hope this natural barrier will not only block the sand, but will act as a safeguard against impeding desertification.
The obvious challenge to this ambitious project is not the money, since the Great Green Wall is being well-funded by numerous environmental groups and international companies. No, the biggest challenge to the project is the divide that spans an entire continent. These 11 countries, ravaged by war and civil uprisings, are expected to embrace a project that will connect communities from all walks of life. These 11 countries, some of them starving, are expected to selflessly contribute for the betterment of the whole. These 11 countries, cut between political and cultural barriers, are expected to unite as one.
Currently, Senegal is busy planting almost two million trees a year along the designated path, with several other countries already beginning their preparations. If the countries succeed, the Great Green Wall will not only be a natural barrier against sand and desertification – it will be a symbol of peace and cooperation under an environmental goal. Let us hope that our own leaders can apply these lessons of selflessness and sustainability, before it’s too late.