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The Great Green Wall: Warding Off Desertification in Africa

By Fritz Schaap

12 Aug 2021 · 6 min read

On a hot morning in July, and a man with a graying beard is crawling through the grass of the Sahel in northern Senegal. He joyfully picks up the seed of a zachun tree, then that of a baobab. Tiny seedlings are emerging from the ground in one of the poorest and most drought-stricken regions on Earth. "It's working," says Haïdar el Ali. Then he kneels down in front of the sapling of an acacia tree and emits an almost childlike laugh. "Without us, this grass and these young trees wouldn’t be here."

They are also el Ali's trees. Based on his advice, the communities here near the village of Kodiolal have enclosed large areas of land, with the fences stretching for several kilometers. They are there to prevent large herds of cattle from eating up the grass and the saplings, thus expediting desertification. Overgrazing is an important factor in the desertification of the Sahel.

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