The great green wall, the great mirage

The sea serpent reappeared. At the recent One Planet Summit, the Great Green Wall in Africa project came back to the surface. As a reminder, it is no less than planting a barrier against the advance of the desert. A 15 km wide curtain of trees stretching from Senegal to Djibouti, or 8,700 km, over more than 100 million hectares.

📸 Gaston Roulstone

We mention it because this initiative is concomitant with our first reforestation project in the Sahel. Initiated in 2007, only 4% of the surface area has been planted, half of it in Ethiopia, notably during the massive campaign launched in 2019. It should be noted that the vast programs aimed at setting planting records have had limited success. For instance, it appears that 90% of the 11 million trees planted in Turkey in November 2019 did not survive due to lack of irrigation and care. But, Ethiopia has no longer communicated on this subject, more concerned with dealing militarily with the desire for independence of part of its population. All this to say that we have no reliable information on the success rate of these plantations, and that the 4% could ultimately cover only 2% of the area planned 15 years ago. What we do know however is what it cost: if the pan-African agency in charge of planning this project talks about $200 million, the donors (mainly the World Bank) talk about $870 million, the difference would come from the fact that the agency in charge would only count the actions specific to the Great Wall, not in the collateral projects. But where did all this money go? Is there someone responsible for auditing, or even communicating if it has already been done, over the use of the cooperation money for a project on which the future of a continent depends? It's like banging our heads against the wall... It's not our role to explain this fiasco, but we have previously mentioned the problems of governance. To add to the under-investment, technical difficulties, endemic insecurity in the Sahel…

Therefore, there appears to be no reported evaluation of the effectiveness of the funds invested. And yet, there is now a promise to relaunch the project by allocating an envelope of 14 billion dollars. 14 billion! The kleptocrats in power in the Sahelian strip and their affidavits probably opened bottles of champagne. For President Macron: "We are truly preparing the Africa of 2030. It is 100 million hectares restored, 10 million jobs created, 250 million tons of carbon sequestered. It is also, through this initiative, the capacity for Africa to show that it is an actor in the fight against global warming". We would sincerely like to believe it... Let us be reassured: "A secretariat has been set up to ensure that the commitments are respected". A “Théodule“ committee again, always the same tune.

As far as we are concerned, in Mali and Senegal where we work, we think we have reforested sustainably 180 hectares. A drop of water in the ocean? No, rather a brick in the wall.