While all deserts, including the Sahara, increase in size during the dry season and decrease during the wet season, human-caused climate change in conjunction with natural climate cycles, are causing the Sahara desert to grow more and shrink less.
Since 1920, the Sahara has grown beyond its initial boundaries and gobbled up more space, growing by nearly 10 percent. The desert is advancing south into more tropical terrain, turning green vegetation dry and soil once used for farming into the barren ground.
Despite the Global North being the most significant contributor to greenhouse gas emissions and global warming, it is people like those living in the Sahel who are paying the price. Ten African countries are moving ahead with an ambitious pan-African effort to protect arable land from the encroaching Sahara — by planting trees from Senegal in the west to Djibouti in the east.
Dubbed The Great Green Wall, it is an African-led movement with an ambition to grow an 8,000km NEWEST WONDER OF THE WORLD across the entire width of Africa, designed to trap the sands of the Sahara, halt the advance of the desert and restore 100 million hectares of land. It was initially intended to be just a line of trees, stretching east to west, to help push back the Sahara’s expansion down south.
Despite the daunting challenges, African countries have been introducing a number of ambitious initiatives to contain the rapid expansion of desertification.
Today, the Great Green Wall initiative is in its second decade and receiving increasing spotlight in the context of renewed international commitments to land restoration.
China’s expertise and experience from its own extensive, and successful, reforestation projects is highly valued on the ground.
Chinese experts assist Ethiopia
China’s remarkable achievements in successfully restoring its lost lands as part of its massive reforestation endeavors can help African countries realize afforestation ambitions, according to forestry experts at the Environment, Forest and Climate Change Commission of Ethiopia. “We need China’s technologies and resources to develop the degraded landscape,” the expert added.
According to the Ethiopian experts, desertification in Africa is in large part driven by fuelwood collection due to lack of access to energy sources, and China can help African countries to develop clean energy mechanisms.
“Unless and otherwise Ethiopia and the rest of Africa promote the use of clean energy technologies, there is no way that we could stop forest degradation and deforestation,” another expert said.
Across Africa, China’s support is already propelling ongoing efforts to promote forestry and mitigate the adverse impacts of climate change.
In Ethiopia, China-backed satellites are helping realize the country’s aspiration of building an environmentally friendly and climate-resilient economy.
“We expect that the utilization of satellite imageries will impact the agricultural sector, including monitoring and taking the necessary measures in relation to climate change,” Abdissa Yilma, director general of the Ethiopian Space Science and Technology Institute, said recently.
In December 2019, Ethiopia launched its first ever satellite abbreviated as ETRSS-1 with support from the Chinese government. A year later, Ethiopia launched the second Chinese-backed satellite, abbreviated as ET-Smart-RSS from China’s Wenchang spacecraft launch site.
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Risen Africa, 29 Jan 2021. ‘Newest Wonder of the World: Great Green Wall of Africa’.
Xinhua, 06 Oct 2021. https://news.cgtn.com/news/2020-09-07/Africa-s-great-green-wall-grows-to-yield-jobs-restore-degraded-land–TAxWyJDFcs/index.html