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CHAD: Green wall starts to grow

N'DJAMENA, 17 June 2010 (IRIN) - For decades, the government in Chad saw the environment as “the white man’s problem” said Minister of Environment, Hassan Térap. “For so long, it was a problem for rich countries, but now our land has been denuded, cattle are dying, water is shrinking, it is our problem too,” the minister told IRIN.

More than one-third of the country’s cattle – or about 780,000 animals – died following a 2009 drought that shrivelled pastures, according to the government. “Without shade, heat beats down on our animals more quickly,” said herder Al Hadj Abakar in Chad’s western region of Kanem.

Heads of states from African countries are concluding a meeting on 17 June in Chad’s capital N’Djamena to launch a transcontinental 7,000-km tree planting project, from Senegal to Djibouti in east Africa.

When asked if the long-discussed but yet-to-be funded Green Wall initiative was too ambitious, Térap told IRIN: “We have to attack the problem, long ignored, through vision, ambition – and trees. What is wrong with ambition?” The countries involved in the initiative include Senegal, Mauritania, Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger, Nigeria, Chad, Sudan, Ethiopia, Eritrea and Djibouti.

As part of the continent-wide barrier, Chad aims to plant a 1,000km-long by 15km-wide wall of trees. The initiative was launched with US$4.6 million in government funds, but Térap estimates it will cost at least US$11 million to reach the coverage target.

The country’s 11.9 million hectares of existing forest land has shrunk by at least 0.6 percent annually in the last 20 years, according to UN Food and Agriculture’s most recent report on the state of the world’s forests.

Since 2009 the government has criminalized the cutting down of trees to make charcoal, with six months imprisonment and fines, in an effort to reverse deforestation.

It has also started planting 160,000 heat-resistant trees, including acacia in N’Djamena.

But planting trees is not enough, according to the environmental ministry’s director of forestry, Abakar Mahamat Zougoubou. “You need a holistic approach, to develop systems.”

“Nurturing trees is not a sexy investment for NGOs, which may plant seedlings in greater quantities than the government. But we are the ones who remain and need to nurture the plants when groups move on. We need to encourage the private sector,” Zougoubou said.

The government estimates that private greenhouses in Chad planted two million trees in 2009.

Waving his hand over a tree planting site in N’Djamena that he hopes will one day become part of the “Green Wall”, Minister Térap told IRIN: “We will soon stand in the shade here. It is a long road, but I can see the shade at the end of the tunnel.”

pt/oa

Theme (s): Environment, Food Security,

[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]

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