In Senegal, Green Wall aims to slow desertification and feed people

EDIBLE circular gardens are part of a bigger project to bring a belt of green across the continent of Africa (Senegal). –  By Lisa VIVES

‘Tolou Keur’ – circular gardens resistant to drought – are part of Africa’s Great Green Wall project.

The project calls for planting papaya and mango trees and a variety of plants across 5,000 miles, from Senegal to Djibouti.

It’s a new, more local approach than what was originally called the Green Wall initiative, launched in 2007 by the African Union and international partners that aimed to slow desertification across Africa’s Sahel region, the arid belt south of the Sahara Desert, by planting several thousands of trees.

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But that initiative only managed to plant 4 percent of the pledged 247 million acres of trees, and completing it by 2030 as planned could cost up to $43 billion, according to United Nations estimates.

The scheme was also criticised for its narrow focus on reforestation, neglecting other approaches that could better curb the economic impact desertification has had on local residents.

By contrast, the Tolou Keur gardens have flourished in the seven months since the project began and now number about two dozen, said Senegal’s reforestation agency.

Circular beds allow roots to grow inwards, trapping liquids and bacteria and improving water retention and composting.



    Not all the gardens have succeeded. In the remote village of Walalde, the desert has already begun to reclaim the land set aside and there have been problems with the solar-powered pump.

    But in the eastern town of Kanel, the garden is said to be thriving. Its caretakers solved a water pump issue by digging traditional irrigation canals. A concrete wall and guard dogs help keep out rodents that would eat the lush mint and hibiscus plants inside.

    “The day people realise the full potential of the Great Green Wall, they will stop these dangerous migrations where you can lose your life at sea”, said Moussa Kamara, a local baker.

    “With what they could harvest here, they will never want to leave because they will have their fathers, their mothers, their wives and their children with them. It’s better to stay, work the soil, cultivate and see what you can earn.”

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