Opinion: The green wall of Africa

by James Inedu George


Dear Mr President,

It’s me again. The travelling architect and dreamer. I have not slept in a while, so I haven’t dreamt too. Staying awake is overrated, it makes you think of things that are in a way, sad. One of which is the proposed Green Wall of Africa

Our fights in Africa have never been ideological, they are based on common sense and living space… food and babes.

Imagine a pot of stew or vegetable soup being cooked and the fumes from it trapped under a blanket and a child forced into the blanket. After a short while, the child will have all his oxygen cut and most probably suffocate. This is what nascent carbon dioxide emissions are doing to the earth. It is these that are responsible for the doomsday scenario that we are now facing. And this scenario is dire. If the earths temperature increases by just a degree we might be facing early signs of extinction.

Africa is the most un-industrialised part of the world, but the effects of this global catastrophe are already, as usual, apparent here. It has, in your own words, Mr President, contributed gravely to the presence of terrorism in the North East. It exists in the form of the bald patch in our landscape that those that aren’t from the north usually find hilarious… the Sahara Desert. As e dey hard sef to make pure water for that area person de wonder wetin concern camel with ozone layer…

This is not a history lesson, but in the 1990s, one of the military governments had the not so smart idea to empower the forestry’s division of the Ministry of Agriculture to go on an all out tree planting campaign in the core north. This left patches of Greenland with a single specie of tree isolated in villages that have no economic significance to the growth of the nation, like the famed Masu Gindi Village, but neither provided employment nor a better farming terrain for the areas involved. It became an absolute failure… we have all forgotten it, like a bad dream. A dream that one needs to apologize for bringing up in a letter.

So, like any other Nigerian failure, our dogged hatred for the facts led to an imported solution that took a chunk of the budget over several administrations and yielded nothing… it was then forgotten and hatefully swept under the rug. Sound familiar? The typical Nigerian White elephant project on a gargantuan scale.  The effect of this is to an extent Boko Haram. Our fights in Africa aren’t as much ideological as they are existential… a fight for actual living space, and farms, and food, and babes! The leading hierarchy of the terrorists might think they are carrying forth a religious agenda, but the 14-year-old boy fighting for them is using them to plan for his future, down to the babes.  This is very important if we really want to stop future terroristic occurrences. Our people are simple. They love life and want it on an unprecedented scale. This is why in a country of copyists, Boko Haram has not been duplicated. This is a good thing.

Mr President, I like you and I’m rooting for your success and for economic miracles in your tenure. But let me assure you, the Green Wall of Africa Project will be the doom of your administration if it becomes a simplistic tree planting campaign for billions of money. We have seen this before. It was a colossal failure, and crude oil price was very juicy globally then. In today’s climate, projects cannot fail, no matter how well meaning they are. Nigerians simply no go gree!

But there is some hope. This project’s scope needs to be redirected to urbanism. And Architecture. And farming. And border protection. And the reawakening of the silk route that wove through Africa to the middle East in the past and made our Kings spectacularly rich. This is one of those kind of projects that will continue long after you are gone and also provide a recession shield to the continent you love dearly. But only if done right. Sounds ambitious right?

There should be no green wall of Africa but a continuous farming and science development urban strip running into the Sahara. An Affordacity. This development will foster the inter country collaboration that was long overdue before the scourge of Boko Haram. It will consist of Farm Towers, Drone Port Water Towers and Artificial land for housing. It will become the most advanced city in Africa, but it will be Rural. In a way, we will not plant trees but buildings for the upliftment of the youth for the future. It is farming that will uplift our youth, sir. We must take it seriously.

The nation is very grateful for the security that has become common place in the past few months, but the soldiers are not an infinite resource, therefore we must build ourselves out of this terroristic scourge. Here is an idea of how: as our gallant troops cover ground against the enemy, we propose that this recovered land is filled with new building, making the lost ground impossible to get at by the enemy. An unprecedented response to war. To counter their negativity and nascent global warming in one swoop through a positive campaign of economics, building and idea.

This great green wall was first proposed by Richard St Barbe Baker, a British environmental scientist in 1952. It’s a placatory measure that will again be all consuming of resources that were non-existent and could only be achieved with the technology of the West. But by my reckoning, it can be refocused and made a laboratory for the creation and testing of Africa’s Future. For this, Mr President, I am available.


James George


Op–ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija

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