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CCSS: 6.RP.A.3.D, MP5, MP6, MP7

TEKS: 6.4H, 7.4E

Stopping The Sahara

How planting trees across Africa could keep the Sahara Desert at bay and combats climate change

Benedicte Kurzen/NOOR/Redux

In Senegal, workers prepare young trees for distribution. The trees will become part of  the Great Green Wall.

The Sahara Desert covers 3.5 million square miles of central Africa. It’s the world’s largest desert—and it’s growing. It grew 10 percent over the past 100 years because of climate change. As global temperatures have risen, the desert has expanded, and sandy dunes have overtaken 250 million acres of farmland. This has resulted in food shortages, poverty, migration to other countries, and even increased violent conflicts in the area.

Back in 2007, 11 African countries made a pact to fight the desert. Residents from Senegal to Djibouti would create something that became known as the Great Green Wall: A wall of trees stretching across the width of sub-Saharan Africa. The hope is that the massive band of forest will stop the growing desert.

“The Great Green Wall is regarded as North Africa’s contribution to the global fight against climate change,” says Chris Reij, an expert in sustainable land practices at the World Resources Institute.

The Sahara Desert covers 3.5 million square miles of central Africa. It’s the world’s largest desert—and it’s getting even bigger. It grew by 10 percent over the past 100 years. The main reason: climate change. As global temperatures have risen, more of central Africa has dried out and turned into desert. Sand dunes have overtaken farmland. This has caused food shortages, poverty, migration to other countries, and even violent conflicts in the area.

Back in 2007, 11 African countries made a pact to fight the desert. Their residents would work together to create a wall of trees stretching across sub-Saharan Africa. The project came to be known as the Great Green Wall. The hope is that the massive band of forest will stop the growing desert.

“The Great Green Wall is regarded as North Africa’s contribution to the global fight against climate change,” says Chris Reij. He’s a specialist in sustainable land practices at the World Resources Institute.

Jim McMahon/Mapman ®

The original goal was to cover 12 million hectares with trees. Today, about 15 percent of the work is complete, and 10 more countries have joined the effort. The project has also evolved, and some countries are also focusing on restoring farmland in addition to reforestation. It’s already helping to stabilize the region’s climate and provide people with jobs and food security. “Now the goal is to restore 100 million hectares of degraded land by 2030,” says Reij.

Only Senegal is still focusing on just planting a tree belt. The rest of the participating countries are taking a wider approach, investing in restoring farmland as well. Ethiopia has had the highest level of engagement, planting more than 5.5 billion trees and reclaiming more than 700,000 hectares of land for agriculture. Other countries have not planted quite so many trees or reclaimed quite as much land, but are still doing their best to meet the 2030 goal.

Once it’s complete, the Great Green Wall will be the largest living structure on the planet—three times larger than Australia’s Great Barrier Reef!        

The original goal was to plant enough trees to cover 12 million hectares. Today, about 15 percent of the work is complete. However, the project has evolved over time. In addition to planting forests, people are working to restore farmland. These changes are already helping to stabilize the region’s climate. The project also provides people with jobs and food security. “Now the goal is to restore 100 million hectares of degraded land by 2030,” says Reij.

Senegal is the only country still focusing just on planting trees. The rest of the participating countries are restoring farmland as well. Ethiopia has had the most people get involved so far. They’ve planted more than 5.5 billion trees and reclaimed more than 700,000 hectares of land for farming. All 11 countries are working as hard as they can to meet the 2030 goal.

Once it’s complete, the Great Green Wall will be the largest living structure on the planet. All together, the reclaimed land will be three times larger than Australia’s Great Barrier Reef!

Convert the data about the Great Green Wall between metric and customary units using the chart below. Round answers to the nearest hundredth. Record your work and answers on our answer sheet.

Convert the data about the Great Green Wall between metric and customary units using the chart below. Round answers to the nearest hundredth. Record your work and answers on our answer sheet.

The planned length of the Great Green Wall is 8,000 kilometers. How many miles is that?

The planned length of the Great Green Wall is 8,000 kilometers. How many miles is that?

Its planned width is 15 kilometers. What’s that in feet?

Its planned width is 15 kilometers. What’s that in feet?

Many of the trees planted are acacias. They grow up to 40 feet tall. What’s that in centimeters?

Many of the trees planted are acacias. They grow up to 40 feet tall. What’s that in centimeters?

A. The original goal for the Great Green Wall was to reclaim 12,000,000 hectares of land. How many acres is that?

A. The original goal for the Great Green Wall was to reclaim 12,000,000 hectares of land. How many acres is that?

B. The new goal is to reclaim 100,000,000 hectares of land. How many acres is that?

B. The new goal is to reclaim 100,000,000 hectares of land. How many acres is that?

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