Genesis Morocco: New initiative looks to restore agricultural growth in deserts

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Genesis Morocco

Project Genesis is a strategic sustainable development framework for Morocco to translate from being a net importer of energy and a country facing water shortage issues, into the number one producer both of clean renewable energy and water in the region.

Friday, February 5, 2010    <<Home

New initiative looks to restore agricultural growth in deserts

By Kevin James Moore

4 February 2010 [MediaGlobal]: An ambitious new idea called the Sahara Forest Project plans to convert the arid and dry landscape of the world’s largest desert into a green-energy oasis. The idea is the result of a partnership between four companies — Seawater Greenhouse Ltd., Exploration Architecture, Max Fordham Consulting Engineers, and the Bellona Foundation — all of which are seeking to deter the effects of global warming.

The Sahara Forest Project combines two proven green technologies, concentrated solar power (CSP) and seawater greenhouses, in order to enable crops to grow year round in some of the hottest regions on earth. Specifically, a seawater greenhouse building would be placed in a costal desert region and used to irrigate crops by mimicking the natural hydrological cycle of the earth. This system works by pumping in seawater that is evaporated by the desert heat and then it is cooled down condensing it into fresh water. Elements left from the evaporated seawater can also be used to re-mineralize desert soil to stimulate new plant growth. CSP harnesses the sun’s energy through mirrors to generate heat and electricity used to power the seawater greenhouse.

The project has the potential to produce renewable energy, food, fresh water, and reverse desertification. Joakim Hauge, a scientific advisor for the Bellona Foundation, told MediaGlobal “The Sahara Forest Project is not only about new technologies. It is also a change of mindset [built] on design principles from nature to produce low-cost integrated systems with minimal waste production.” By applying these principles, Hauge believes the project can achieve restorative growth and reforestation to areas that have been negatively affected by global warming, which threatens the future supplies of fresh water and food.

In December 2009, Hauge said, the Sahara Forest Project presented its feasibility study at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Copenhagen. It was a high-level side panel event that included: UN special envoy on climate change, Dr. Gro Harlem Brundtland; Assistant Secretary-General of the UNDP, Olav Kjørven; former president of Costa Rica and president of the Global Observatory, José María Figueres; and the Director of The Global Humanitarian Forum, Martin Frick.

“Our feasibility study concluded that it would be possible to profitably re-vegetate areas of desert while producing zero carbon food, renewable energy, and locking up substantial amounts of carbon in reactivated soils and plants,” Michael Pawlyn of Exploration Architecture told MediaGlobal.

In addition, seawater greenhouses will create green jobs. “The project must achieve a close integration with local communities to be successful,” Hauge said. “As an example, a 10 hectare (24.71 acres) of seawater greenhouse would provide roughly 80 jobs inside the greenhouse. In addition, it would need a working force to cultivate areas outside the greenhouses and for maintenance of the energy infrastructure.”

As of now, stated Hauge, the project has received no formal cooperation from international organizations, but has received interest from investors, organizations, scientist, and representatives from various countries. The partners have also received philanthropic funding from foundations and banks for the project, and are in the process of securing additional funding necessary to realize a Sahara Forest Project Demonstration Center.

The demonstration center will be the next step to demonstrate the feasibility of the project and would require finding an area with the right physical environment in addition to political, social, and economic support. A site is to be announced in the coming months, with a plan to start construction in early 2011, according to Hauge.

Hauge acknowledged, “It is vital to the project that it creates values, resources, and green jobs in environments where this is highly needed.” The Sahara Forest Project has the potential to bring life back to desert regions by transforming them into places of growth.

//Personal notes : We should be on this like a ton of bricks. Its also nice to see that people from other parts of the world share the same interests. Link added to Ressources. Requires follow up