In West Africa's drylands, an ambitious green movement is underway: the Great Green Wall. This huge belt of trees is set to span over 8000 km across the width of Africa, running through 11 different countries and providing protection from the effects of climate change for the millions of people who live there.
From Mali to Ethiopia, our project participants work with Tree Aid to develop the tools and training they need to make the Great Green Wall a reality.
But for every tree planted, there is a person with a story to tell. Below is a closer look at the everyday heroes of the Great Green Wall, making this their Great Green Goal.
Meet Baata - a farmer and father of six, living in the Navio region of Ghana. In this area, the land has been slowly getting drier and drier. It’s now one of the most difficult places in the country to farm.
For Baata to make enough money, it’s vital that the land receives enough rainfall. Without it, his crops can wilt and die. Over the years, Baata has witnessed firsthand the effects that climate change is having on the weather in Ghana.
"We experience drought, and we experience floods." He explains, picking up a piece of soil and turning it over in his hands. "Anytime there is drought, the crops do not grow properly and then when we also have floods, it washes our crops away."
By planting climate-smart trees, Baata has seen the land become more resilient. Trees have helped to keep water in the soil, allowing rainwater to soak into the earth instead of running off into terrible floods.
Now, Baata’s works to train members of his community on the techniques he has learned through Tree Aid. "We have been trained on the importance of trees. For me, the hope is that in the future I should be able to provide enough food for my family and pay my children’s school fees. I hope to see more trees growing."
Nearby to Baata, lives another project participant called Abba.
Abba Achana is a 28-year-old mother of four, living in Ghana. With Tree Aid, she has been involved in growing shea and baobab trees. These incredible ‘super trees’ have helped her to earn a stable living so she can pay the school fees that her children need.
"Myself, I went to school but then I had to drop out due to financial challenges," she says, standing beneath the shade of an ancient baobab. "That’s why I’m trying to see how my children can all go to school, so they can gain a better employment and do basic things that I couldn’t."
For Abba and many people like her, the Great Green Wall is a chance to give their incomes a vital boost. By forming cooperatives to harvest fruits and nuts from trees, Abba can make products that she can sell at her local market.
"Previously, I used to do a bowl of shea nuts, but now I increase that by about two or three times."
But for Abba, increased income isn’t the only benefit to come from tree-planting. "The group also helps us be more united, and we show that kind of respect for each other." From sustainable, nourishing food to stronger communities, the Great Green Wall has helped Abba to thrive.
In Mali, over 900 km away from Baata and Abba, lives Soungala Diarra - a farmer and father of three. Like Baata, Soungala also raises livestock, which he relies on for an income.
"Before the arrival of the project, we didn’t have many trees," he explains, walking through the tree nurslings. "Because we used to cut trees in the farmland, everywhere was becoming clearings." These unsustainable farming practices can worsen the effects of desertification, making it difficult to grow enough food to eat.
"Now, we are securing the trees. Thanks to the project, I see the benefits. Fruits from the trees are very important here… We have shea fruits, this year we’ve it in abundance, we eat them a lot."
From shea and baobab trees in Ghana to Mali, to frankincense trees in Ethiopia, the Great Green Wall is being created with climate-smart trees that will transform land, communities and lives.