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Trees to check spread of terrorism in Africa

By Peter Muiruri | May 12th 2016
By Peter Muiruri | May 12th 2016
Initiative aims to plant a 7,000-kilometre strip of vegetation that will cover 11 countries from Senegal to Djibouti. [PHOTO: FILE/STANDARD

A news report, last week, by Thomson Reuters Foundation gave an interesting twist to a security problem that has plagued the continent.

According to the report, African countries can among other things check the spread of terrorism by planting trees along the stretch of land bordering the Sahara.

The initiative, dubbed the Great Green Wall, aims to plant a 7,000-kilometre strip of vegetation that will cover 11 countries from Senegal in West Africa to Djibouti on the Indian Ocean. It will reclaim up to 50 million hectares of land and absorb 250 million tonnes of carbon.

Already, Senegal has reclaimed four million hectares by planting 27,000 indigenous trees that do not need watering on her stretch of this belt.

Adopted by the African Union in 2005, the project seeks to control spread of the Sahara desert that has been blamed for the region's reduced economic growth which pushes many youth to criminal activities. Terrorist groups such as Boko Haram and Al Shabaab are active within this stretch.

Elvis Paul Tangam, the African Union Commissioner for the Sahara and Sahel Great Green Wall Initiative says young men, who have nothing to do after their crops and animals die, face terrible choices including joining terror groups.

An estimated 60 million Africans leave their homes due to the spread of this desert. It is feared that many of the displaced youths keep moving northwards into Europe in search of greener pastures while others are lured into joining terrorist groups operating on the continent.

According to environmental experts on the continent, even countries that are far away from the Sahel are not immune to the dangers posed by the spread of the Sahara.

“We know that, with many other projects in the past, regional collaboration has been difficult because we always look out for ourselves. However, ecosystems and climate change do not respect national boundaries, so it is crucial,” said Romy Chevallier, an environmental expert with the South African Institute for International Affairs.

The initiative received a major boost when signatories to the recent UN Climate Change Summit held in Paris last December pledged four billion dollars.

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