The Great Green Wall and Sahelian Environmental Imaginaries

Green Fix and the Persistence of a Policy Idea

The Great Green Wall Initiative (GGW) is a Pan-African program launched in 2007 by the African Union (AU) that prioritizes large-scale land restoration as the key approach to combat desertification and improve the livelihoods of rural communities. 

The program aims to restore 100 million hectares of degraded land by 2030 an 8000 km-long line of trees and plants across the entire Sahel, from the Atlantic coast of Senegal to the east coast of Djibouti.
Ethiopia is one of the countries that has taken a step to implement the GGW to combat desertification and officially adopted the initiative in 2011

© UNCCD, Great Green Wall Org, Statista

The Great Green Wall as an “imaginary”

An “imaginary” may be understood as a vision of development, or a better future. Green imaginaries are powerful drivers of change globally, including Sub-Saharan Africa. However, they often do not materialize as originally envisioned and often remain a socio-technical “quick fix”, thus raising the question how to explain the performativity and persistence of ideas in the context of social transformation.
The project understands future visions of green transformation as ‘socio-technical imaginaries’, i.e., as the application of modern technologies for a ‘technical green fix’.

Researching the Great Green Wall and Reforestation

This research project aims to explore high-end conceptualizations of African green futures by studying how ideas of greening the Sahel region have developed, persisted, and been contested.
The findings will be used to explore how contested and changing visions of green transformations can contribute to long-standing debates on the persistence of ideas, with the tools and methods to develop an interdisciplinary approach to studying environmental socio-technical imaginaries.
The study is conducted in Ethiopia, Ivory coast, and Senegal by an interdisciplinary team involving political historians, human geographers, and social and cultural anthropologists.
Research in Ethiopia focuses on the area of Yayo biosphere reserve areas, and GGW project implementation areas. It is conducted in close collaboration with local partners

Project duration and workplan (2023-2026)

03/23                  kick-off symposium in Dakar
04/23                  contracting researchers
05/23 - 07/23  literature review, concept note
08/23 - 02/24  field research
02/24                  workshop in Bonn
03/24 - 07/24  1st paper
08/24 - 11/24  field research, travelling workshop
12/24 - 10/25  2nd and 3rd paper, PhD defence
02/26                  final conference


Avatar Müller-Mahn

Prof. Dr. Detlef Müller-Mahn

Avatar Bekele Oma

Matiwos Bekele Oma

RG Müller-Mahn

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