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Irish missionaries are leading an attempt to plant a million trees as part of the re-greening of one of Africa’s most parched regions.

The United Nations has invited Ireland to help deliver the Great Green Wall project, which aims to combat desertification in the Sahel, a vast swathe of land south of the Sahara.

The Laudato Tree Project, run by the Society of African Missions (SMA), hopes to tie in the wall and create a lasting legacy from the Pope’s visit to Ireland this August. Michael D Higgins, the president, is expected to deliver a major speech on desertification and the country’s response in Dublin tomorrow.

“Africa’s Great Green Wall gives Ireland an opportunity to establish a new beginning and demonstrate a commitment to achieving promises made during the Paris climate accord,” Don Mullan, an SMA spokesman said.

When the wall is completed it will span 11 countries across 8,000km.

The UN’s proposal would involve schools, parishes and communities planting trees in Ireland, increasing biodiversity and improving pollution.

Mr Mullan added: “We will be asking the government to consider matching every tree we plant in Ireland with five to ten along the Great Green Wall.”

The Laudato Tree Project takes its name from a 2015 papal encyclical by Pope Francis, Laudato Si’, on the environment, and is meant to be an expression of the intervention. The Pope is visiting Ireland this summer as part of the World Meeting of Families.

Monique Barbut, executive secretary of the UN convention to combat desertification, will meet the president and members of the Dáil this week.

Mr Mullan said: “Unlike the wall proposed along the US-Mexican border, this is a wall the whole world can believe in. It is about helping to provide food, jobs and a future for the millions of people who live in a region on the frontline of climate change.”

Joe McHugh, the government’s chief whip who will lead meetings with those backing the plan this week, said: “This is a hugely ambitious project and it’s exactly the type of global response that’s needed to tackle climate change. I’ve seen the impact on rural communities in Africa — it’s about protecting life”.

- The Times, London