The Sahel village of Ndiawagne Fall in Kebemer, Senegal, sits in a dry landscape. (AP/Leo Correa)

The Sahel village of Ndiawagne Fall in Kebemer, Senegal, sits in a dry landscape. (AP/Leo Correa)

A girl carries a bucket of water from a well in the village. (AP/Leo Correa)

A girl carries a bucket of water from a well in the village. (AP/Leo Correa)

Ibrahima Fall collects limes from his orchard. (AP/Leo Correa)

Ibrahima Fall collects limes from his orchard. (AP/Leo Correa)

Selling the limes helps Mr. Fall support his family. (AP/Leo Correa)

Selling the limes helps Mr. Fall support his family. (AP/Leo Correa)

Lime trees surround a house in the village. The orchard provides a haven from the heat and sand that surround it. (AP/Leo Correa)

Lime trees surround a house in the village. The orchard provides a haven from the heat and sand that surround it. (AP/Leo Correa)

Planting the Sahara

Posted: January 1, 2022

The Great Green Wall project was a great big idea. African countries aimed to plant trees across the entire continent. The nearly 5,000-mile line was supposed to hold back the Sahara Desert. But it turns out that smaller projects might work better.

The effort began in 2007. The goal was for the trees to cross the expansive Sahel region by 2030. (Read about the Sahel Region in Africa’s Belt .) But millions of the planted trees died. They couldn’t get enough water.

Only a tiny bit of the original goal was met. And it would cost a LOT to finish—$43 billion dollars. So the project has changed. Instead of a huge wall of trees, people are trying smaller “patchwork” projects to keep the desert in check. And those projects are helping communities as well as the land.

Ibrahima Fall is the chief of a village in Senegal. He planted a citrus orchard in 2016. He put the trees near a water source on his land. It is one of 800 small orchards around a town called Kebemer.

“This orchard brings income that allows me to take care of my family,” he says. The peanuts he planted before weren’t as profitable. The trees have made the soil richer. He can grow tomatoes and onions as well.

The village used money from the orchard to build homes with concrete bricks instead of straw. It also upgraded a well. People bought more sheep, goats, and chickens.

The newest projects in Senegal are 20 circular gardens. Larger trees in the circles protect the weaker ones.

The gardens’ curving rows hold moringa, sage, papaya, and mango trees. Those do well in dry climates. They are planted so that their roots grow inward. That helps keep water in the garden. So far, these gardens are thriving. That’s good news and good food for the people who tend them.

Why? If an idea fails, perseverance and rethinking might help produce a new plan. Galatians 6:9 tells us, “And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.”