Friday, July 1, 2011

At Widou, in the middle of the Ferlo region of northern Senegal, there will be no rain till the end of July. At this difficult time of the year most of the zebu, sheep and goats have moved south in search of pasture under the watchful eye of their Peul herdsmen.

In the nursery built by the Senegalese Water and Forestry Agency (OEF) men carrying watering cans are hard at work. Women, bent over rows of little plastic containers, are potting seedlings, ready to be planted at the first sign of rainfall. This year some 390,000 such seedlings will be needed, for Widou is one of the first communities selected by the government to roll out the great green wall (GGW) programme, a pan-African scheme initiated by the African Union in 2007. To halt the advancing desert, it aims to plant a 15 kilometre-wide swath of trees stretching 7,600km across the continent from Dakar to Djibouti. Eleven countries are taking part but Senegal, with 533km of wall on its territory, is the first where the project is really taking shape.

Colonel Matar Ciss?, an OEF engineer, readily acknowledges that "The great green wall is a crazy project". But he dismisses the idea that the aim is to build an impenetrable barrier 15km wide. "It would make no sense," he says. "It would be more accurate to say we are going to build up the forest cover wherever possible, build reservoirs, set aside nature reserves for large mammals, which have almost completely disappeared, while making allowance for the main routes used by the herds." The idea is nevertheless useful, because it reflects a positive attitude showing that "we have chosen to colonise the desert, rather than letting it have its way".


Blog Archive