The world’s largest desert is growing. In the last century, the Sahara Desert expanded by more than 10%, now covering an area of more than 3.3 million square miles (8.6 million square kilometers) and spanning 11 countries in North Africa. But an ambitious plan, launched by the African Union in 2007, could help to hold back the hot sands and protect the Sahel communities. Within the next decade, the Great Green Wall initiative hopes to restore 100 million hectares of land between Senegal in the west and Djibouti in the east, creating a 15-kilometer-wide (9 miles) and 8,000-kilometer-long (5,000 miles) mosaic of trees, vegetation, grasslands and plants. Nine years away from its deadline, there is still a long way to go. So far, 4 million hectares of land has been restored — just 4% of the overall goal — though this rises to almost 20 million hectares when counting areas outside of the official Great Green Wall zones. In addition to the Great Green Wall’s target for land restoration, there is also the goal to create 10 million jobs in rural areas. So far, 335,000 have been created and growing fruit and forest products has earned $90 million, according to the UN.
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