A Plan to Reduce Erosion in the Sahara – through planting gardens

This story is original appeared in Atlas Obscura and about Climate Desk cooperation.

From the wind, the new garden in the town of Boki Diawe, in northeastern Senegal, looks like an eye: wide open, unconnected, and lined with many holes dug in the surrounding ground, as dark as of nasal freckles. The ground is still brittle brown, but nearby, there is a bright green edge.

If all goes according to plan, this garden will soon look the same green. The circular garden – known locally as a tolou kay—Naa now planted with papayas, cashews, lemons, and more. One of the inner curves is dedicated to medicinal plants, while the outer row is filled with baobabs and Khaya senegalensis, whose wood is also known as Africa mahogany.

The garden is the latest revision of the project known as the Great Green Wall, first imagined as a viridescent belt that spans thousands of miles across the Sahel region, from Senegal to Djibouti. Launched in 2007 in the African Union with retreat from the European Union, World Bank, and United Nations, the project was originally intended to help restrained the desert by replacing the Sahara as it wandered south to the south.

Desertification is the process by which more quiet land is destroyed in a desert. The surprise was followed by “a link between natural and human factors,” said Chukwuma J. Okolie, a lecturer in surveying and geoinformatics at the University of Lagos in Nigeria. Okolie uses remote sensitivity data, such as satellite imagery, to track scenes that converge toward desert conditions.

Desert drivers go hand in hand with climate change and climate change, overpopulation, construction of river dams, and conflicts that have displaced people and incited violence. -or land use. Prolonged drought can leave fertile soil vulnerable, and wind and rain can drive it away. “Deforestation can speed up the process, because trees serve as windbreaks,” Okolie said. That’s where the concept of the Great Green Wall came into play.

The preliminary plan gave weight to the trees as an anchor for the ground and a buffer against the ingrown sand. Some elements of the idea make sense, says Geert Sterk, a geos scientist at Utrecht University who studies soil degradation. “Tree and shrub roots hold the ground, and the canopies bind the raindrops before they reach the ground surface and reduce strong winds,” curbing wind and regional damage. rare but heavy rain, Sterk explained in an email.

But the ambitious plan never stopped. There have been political fights about where the green line should be drawn, and scientific debates about what promotes the desert, as well as the effectiveness of the method. As of 2021, the project only part of the path to his purpose to plant hundreds of millions of acres.

A new infusion of money, promised this year in various governments and development banks, give a boost to the project – and now, the focus has shifted to many local gardens. In the past seven months, more than 20 versions of these round gardens have been grown throughout Senegal.

Aly Ndiaye, a Senegal -born agricultural engineer who helped design the tolou kay, SAY Reuters that the Great Green Wall should be made into small, productive gardens that are “permanent, useful, and continuous,” a series of practical schemes rather than an unbreakable line of trees. Okolie agreed that the project would not be part of pushing any seedling into the ground. He said it should include “trying to find the best species that can thrive” in given soil and climate conditions, while also attracting people to nourish them. Researchers found that agroforestry projects often fail when the focus is only on planting trees and locals are not left in the process. “If the government plants trees, the people in the community will keep them” Okolie said. “The community has to own.”

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