By 2020, 60 million people from sub-Saharan Africa are expected to migrate because of desertification. The Great Green Wall is a $8bn project restoring degraded land. But will it encourage people to stay or earn the money to go?
The first thing you notice about the garden is how out of place it looks in this dusty, hazy landscape, where herds of cows kick up sandstorms and goats nibble at sparse weeds below scraggly trees. The garden is a swatch of vibrant colour: green tufts growing lettuce, aubergine, watermelon and other produce form tidy rows, and women in bright skirts walk through, bringing tin watering cans from the well to hydrate this lush little corner in a vast, parched landscape.
Here, in Koyli Alfa village in central Senegal, Batta Mbengu works in this garden every Wednesday; there are almost 300 women who labour here, divided into groups of 30, with each group taking a weekly shift. And every week, each woman contributes 100 West African francs (about 14p) to a tontine – a communal pot of money that any member can cash out when she needs it. For example, when a member has a baby the other women bring the tontine money to the naming ceremony and gift it to the mother. It’s a safety net in a place where financial insecurity is part of life.