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Africa’s Great Green Wall

Supporting local communities in the sustainable use of their natural resources, the Great Green Wall Initiative in Africa aims to combat desertification in dryland areas and around the Sahara.

KEW_1-Dr MS meeting with one of the communities in Yakouta, Dori, BFaso.JPG

Green wall project meeting with one of the communities in Yakouta, Africa
Green wall project meeting with one of the communities in Yakouta

The initiative hopes to improve the environment, which will in turn contribute to climate change mitigation, while helping to improve food security and the livelihoods of people in the Sahel and Sahara.

The challenge

The Sahel and Saharan region of Africa is faced with increasing pressure on already fragile ecosystems, a factor that is contributing to the insecurity of people and their livestock. These communities are some of the world’s most vulnerable to climate change, deforestation and soil degradation, relying heavily on healthy ecosystems and subsistence agriculture. The rising demands on environmental resources, with frequent droughts, unsustainably managed natural resources and an increasing population has led to increasing land degradation, or the process of desertification.

KEW_2.'Half-moons' dug before rainy season, April 2013.JPG

Africa Great Green Wall project, 'half-moons' dug into ground before the rainy season
'Half-moons' dug into ground before the rainy season, April 2013

The vision

Backed by, among others, the African Union, the World Bank, the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation, the UNCCD and the European Union, and adopted in 2007, the Great Green Wall Initiative aims to tackle the deleterious impacts of desertification in the Sahel and around the Sahara. Transcending political borders, the Initiative hopes to tackle poverty, policy and institutional barriers to create a harmonized strategy that promotes planned, sustainable and well-managed uses of land and water resources across the region. 

Kew's commitment

Kew’s Africa Great Green Wall pilot project is bringing together new and existing partners of the Millennium Seed Bank in Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger to create a network of collaborators, from local community groups and environmental non-government organisations to forestry officials and government officers. The project will help inform the pan-African initiative on model sustainable land restoration and management strategies.

KEW_4. Pepiniere.JPG

Workers in a tree nursery or pépinière, part of Africa Great Green Wall project
Workers in a tree nursery or pépinière

In participating countries, the main activities of Kew are:

Identifying suitable species for the Great Green Wall

Using Kew’s botanical information resources and plant scientists, as well as engaging with in-country specialists and local communities, Kew is helping to identify priority Great Green Wall species.

Supporting seed collection and use

The Millennium Seed bank has a world class research programme that addresses the conservation and propagation of seeds, including their handling and long term storage at Kew and in country of origin. Today Kew houses seeds of over 35,000 species from across the world.

Supporting restoration activites

Kew is providing plant and seed expertise and is helping to coordinate activities between tree seed centres, forestry departments, local tree nurseries, non-governmental organisations and communities to support their restoration activities. 

Facilitating communications

Ensuring that information on good practices is readily available is vital to the success of the Great Green Wall project. Kew is helping to engage new participants, strengthen existing political commitments and create opportunities for continued funding by attending Africa-wide Great Green Wall meetings and engaging key stakeholders.

This project is funded by a grant from the Dr Mortimer and Theresa Sackler Foundation.