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'Green Great Wall' Proposed to Stop Spread of Sahara

A grand vision for a wall of vegetation reaching thousands of miles across Africa and slowing the spread of the Sahara Desert took a step closer to becoming a reality yesterday with the first international conference to discuss how to bring it about.

The Great Green Wall would be a nine-mile wide band of trees and shrubbery across the southern border of the Sahara’s southern Sahel desert, stretching 4,400 miles through 11 countries from the Senegalese capital of Dakar in the west to Djibouti on the Indian Ocean coast.

The harsh conditions and resultant lack of economic opportunities are in part blamed for sending economic migrants north to Europe and as factors in the spread of Islamist extremism in the area. Groups such as Boko Haram and al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) prey on young men who are unemployed and desperate. Boko Haram has been known to offer microloans to prospective fighters.

Adopted by the African Union in 2005, the ambitious Great Green Wall plan was boosted in December by $4bn of funding from signatories to the historic UN climate change summit in Paris (COP21). Further pledges have been made by the World Bank and the French government, one of the continent's major former colonisers.

The Great Green Wall, it is hoped, could help meet that target by absorbing as much as 250 million tons of carbon.

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