Jim McMahon/Mapman®

A huge effort to protect the environment has taken root in parts of Africa. Since 2007, countries there have been planting trees just south of the Sahara desert. The project is called the Great Green Wall.

The Sahara is the largest desert in the world. It covers 3.5 million square miles, and it’s spreading at an alarming rate. In the past century, the Sahara has increased in size by 10 percent, and experts say climate change is to blame.

As countries immediately south of the Sahara experience high temperatures and low rainfall, millions of acres of once-fertile farmland have turned into desert. This has resulted in food shortages and poverty.

To save their land, 11 countries came up with a plan to plant a wall of trees below the Sahara from one side of the continent to the other. The hope is that the barrier of forest will stop the desert from spreading.

How? Trees can protect farmland from the harsh Saharan winds. They also help filter rainwater back into the ground so crops can grow.

What’s more, the Great Green Wall can help combat climate change, since trees absorb carbon dioxide. That is a gas that is produced when people burn fossil fuels. Carbon dioxide and other gases drive up the average global temperature by trapping heat in the atmosphere.

Today, more than 20 countries are working to construct the Great Green Wall. Once it’s finished, the wall will help parts of Africa reclaim nearly 250 million acres of farmland. 

Way to grow!