Environment conservation and combating climate change are among the founding principles of the Non-Aligned Movement and several of the African nations, being the founding members of the Non-Aligned Movement, have adopted strategies and policies that tend to strengthen the importance of the ecology.

One such major initiative taken by the African nations with the aid of other international organisations is the ‘Great Green Wall’ initiative. In order to combat the augmenting adverse impact of climate change and the extending desertification in the African continent, the African Union with the aid of the funding by the World Bank, the European Union and the United Nations started a flagship programme, called the ‘Great Green Wall for the Sahara and the Sahel Initiative’ (GGWSSI) back in 2007.

The initiative aims at bringing together more than 20 African countries with international organizations, research institutes, civil society and grassroots organizations so as to transform the landscape of the region by great montage of green and productive landscapes across North Africa, the Sahel and the Horn of Africa. The Great Green Wall has both literal as well as metaphorical meanings. In the literal sense the initiative aims at planting a barrier of trees running 4,815 miles along the southern edge of the Sahara that will literally generate a green wall along the expansion and on a metaphorical level the name tends to express and strengthen the solidarity between African countries as well as the international organisations playing a key role in the flagship programme.

The need for such an epic-scale programme became necessary because the region faces several challenges pertaining to food and water shortages, climate change, drought, migration, and international terrorism. Nearly 80% of the land in the Sahel region is degraded, while 33 million people are currently food insecure and temperatures in the region are expected to rise by as much as 3-5 degrees by 2050.

The Great Green Wall covers both arid and semi-arid areas in the north and south end of the Sahara Desert. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) has estimated that the core area of the Great Green Wall for the Sahara and the Sahel stands at 780 million hectares that is the home to about 232 million people, 21 per cent of which includes restorable agro-sylvo-pastoral lands. Of this total, the United Nations and Member States agreed in September 2019 to restore 100 million hectares by 2030 with an estimate of restoring10 million hectares each year. The plan is compatible with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development of the United Nations.

The initiative is not just about planting trees, but it is a very integrated framework that involves sustainable use of land, creation of livelihood for the poor population of Africa and elsewhere as well as has potential to be a medium of peacebuilding among the often troubled African nations-population outburst and lack of resources being the major cause of the conflict.

Following the footprints of the Non-Aligned Movement, the Great Green Wall initiative is a promise made towards environment and it endorses the values of the United Nations as well. The Great Green Wall initiative directly supports ten of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals, and it has been endorsed by over 20 countries in the African continent.

The Great Green Wall aims to drive forward climate-smart solutions and bring back life to degraded landscapes in order to provide food security, jobs and thriving new economies for the communities living in Africa’s Sahel region. Under the initiative, several restoration processes have been adopted including the promotion of natural regeneration; large-scale land preparation and enrichment planning; mobilization of high-quality seeds and planting materials; involving communities in the selection of native species to be used; sustainable management of oases systems and use of native woody and grassy vegetation.

All these initiatives have been started keeping the need of the region in mind and are climate-resilient methods. The contemporary situation of the world is not at all good, and the world at large is dealing with the health crisis created as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The distressing time calls for extraordinary solutions and the restoration capacity of degraded drylands across vast bands of Africa under the Great Green Wall initiative could be the potential solution towards creating a healthier and sustainable ecosystem.

Photo Credit : https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Sahel_forest_near_Kayes_Mali.jpg