Recalling St. Pope John Paul II’s first pastoral visit to Africa in May 1980 during which he gave voice to the cry of the drought-stricken populations of the Sahel, Pope Francis on Sunday encouraged young people committed to a project that fights climate change and worsening conditions in the arid region in the spirit of ‘Laudato Sì’.
Pope Francis on Sunday recalled the 40th anniversary of St. Pope John Paul’s first pastoral journey to Africa, during which he raised the alarm regarding the plight of people of the Sahel region who were struck by drought and its devastating consequences.
Speaking during the Regina Caeli address, the Pope said that on “10 May 1980 (…) St. Pope John Paul II gave voice to the cry of the populations of the Sahel, sorely tried by drought.”
The Sahel region is a climate zone sandwiched between Sudan’s Savanna to the south and the Sahara Desert to the north, across West and Central Africa. It has long experienced a series of historic droughts that have had dramatic environmental and societal effects, including famines. on the Sahel nations and their populations.
“Today,” the Pope said, “I congratulate the group of young people for the launch of the initiative Laudato Trees” explaining that “The aim is to plant at least one million trees throughout the region of the Sahel, which will become part of the “Great Green Wall of Africa”.
He concluded expressing his hope that “many will follow the example of solidarity given by these young people.”
Whilst the ‘Laudato Tree Project’ highlights the impact of climate change on some of the world’s most impoverished people, it is actively raising funds for the planting new trees in the Republic of Ireland and, at the same, working on a much more ambitious project in Africa called the Great Green Wall.
Run by the Society of African Missions, the initiative hopes to create a lasting legacy from the Pope’s 2018 visit to Ireland.
Since its inception, the project has caught the imagination of Irish youngsters, especially at schools and colleges where students are well versed in the calamities associated with climate change.
As it stands, Ireland’s tree coverage is the lowest in Europe.
The bigger picture is in Africa though, where the Great Green Wall project aims to plant thousands of kilometres of trees, which, when completed, will span 13 countries stretching from Senegal in the west to Somalia in the east.
The idea is to establish lush green areas in the Sahel region south of the notoriously arid Sahara.
Experts say the idea could be a lifeline for the continent given the ongoing climate crisis which has increased desertification.
It is hoped that the Great Green Wall, when completed in a decade, will be the ‘largest living structure on the planet.’
Furthermore, the increase in trees will help to cultivate fruits, seeds and nuts –all vital for the food supply and domestic economies.
One area which has been active is along the Daka River region, where over 200,000 trees have been planted and another 125,000 regenerated with the help of local communities.
Vatican News and Nathan Morley – ‘Laudato Tree Project’ aims for a greener future
Vatican News and Linda Bordoni – Pope upholds solidarity initiative in Sahel region