Certain people among environmentalist groups and scientist question the project of the Great Green Wall in Africa (we talk about it here: The Great Green Wall project: 11 African countries against the advance of the Sahara)
‘Nothing but a daydream to misuse money’
The FFEM (French Global Environment Facility) has promised 119 million dollars (97 million euros) to finance the project.
Haidar El Ali, leader of the Environmentalists Federation in Senegal declared in RFI -Radio France International- the 17th of June 2010 that this project wasn’t convincing enough: ‘I just come from the countryside and everywhere I hear the same complaints. The farmers don’t have enough seeds, and sometimes none at all. For me the Great Green Wall is a Utopia, daydreaming to misuse money‘.
In the creation of the Great Green Wall there are economic and political interests at play, so for Haidar El Ali ‘this wall is show biz. Name a single Senegalese project that has succeeded. People have other things to do and don’t trust this anti-democratic government that presents itself as green but over exploits the forests and doesn’t even consider the solar energy‘.
Scientiest doubt the effectiveness of the project
For Marc Bied-Charreton, president of the French Scientific committee for desertification in an interview in www.terre-eco.com, this initiative is going to inevitably fail: ‘It’s incorrect to say that the desert is advancing and that we need to stop it. What is progressing is the deforestation of soils. Therefore what we need to do is protect the soils and not build barriers like these‘.
Martin Benistor, lecturer in the Institue of Environmental Sciences in the University of Geneve questions the efficacity of the project: ‘A green cover to interact with the atmosphere and increase the rains. But with a width of about 15 km, this seems insufficient. The wall could modify the atmospheric conditions and counteract the expansion of the desert in certain semi-arid zones, but never along its whole length‘.
This is the answer of one of the people promoting the project, professor Abdoulaye Dia, of the University of Cheikh Anta Diop in Dakar: ‘Around one hundred scientists, American, Israelis, Japanese and African met in February 2009 to study the viability of the project. They identified the species of trees, the soils and the rain rates better adapted to the conditions of reforestation. In Senegal for example, we plant above all acacias ‘.
What are the alternatives to the project?
Marc Bied-Charreton proposes a solution based on two main axis: Sustainable agriculture and Decentralization.
- Stopping the practice of leaving the land fallow six months per year.
- Limit the ploughing
- Introduce rotation of cultivation
- Decrease fertilizer usage
- The states must accept the management of farmable land to the villages or groups of villages. This is the way it is done in Mali, Niger or Burkina Faso and it works.
- For the reforestation to take place, the local people should have access to the profits. This is how they can get engaged in the process and how the massive cutting down of trees avoided.
- The administration should not try to establish a top-down system for transfer of technical help and information, this is bound to fail.