Africa is combating desertification and drought by mobilizing tree planting and Turkey is among the major contributors to the process. The country gave $3 million for the "Great Green Wall," a movement aiming to grow trees which will encompass a portion of the continent, crossing over multiple countries. Turkey will also serve as a guide on better forestry in African countries as part of the project.
The Great Green Wall was launched in 2007 by the African Union though it traces back its roots to the 1970s when the degradation of lands in Sahel, a fertile region across the southern edge of the Sahara, became more visible. Green spaces started fading then, endangering the livelihood of millions depending on the lands now turning dry and barren. Climate change, a surge in population and wrong land management practices are to blame for the crisis that led to "a spiraling cycle of poverty" according to the initiative's website. Degradation of lands eventually led to food and water shortages as well as conflicts over resources, increase in unemployment and forced migration of a large number of people from the Sahel countries. The Great Green Wall idea took a more concrete form in the 1980s as community and political leaders looked for ways to make degraded landscapes green again, from Senegal to Djibouti. More than 20 African countries have joined the movement so far.
Turkey's Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry cooperates with the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) on the project. The ministry and FAO will also cooperate on improving 5,000 hectares of lands in three African countries for agriculture. The BRIDGES project supports the improvement of arid and semi-arid land in Eritrea, Mauritania and Sudan. Moctar Sacande, coordinator for BRIDGES, told Anadolu Agency (AA) that Turkey was one of the important actors of the project which is a part of the Great Green Wall initiative. Sacande says Turkey is exemplary in its efforts in combating desertification and its expertise on the field can be instrumental in helping other countries suffering from the same problem.
In its fight against desertification and loss of lands, Turkey managed to decrease the loss from 500 million tons of fertile soil yearly to 154 million tons since the 1970s as less and less land is exposed to erosion.
Sacande says BRIDGES would take three years and will renew degraded forested areas in three countries as well as assisting in sustainable land management and cultivation in those countries.