Turn the desert into a green, sustainable and more livable place. It is an ambitious goal, but the Sahara Forest project is going for it, which has launched in one of the driest areas of an already particularly arid country, Jordan, high-tech facilities for greenhouse cultivation and outdoors. Water desalination, salt production and photovoltaic installations complete an initiative from which much is expected: that this oasis will end up turning green up to 20 hectares, until now of pure desert, in which 130,000 kilos of vegetables are produced per year.
That is the goal and, at the start of that long-distance race, what is currently underway in the vicinity of the city of Aqaba are a three-hectare facility in which you begin to experiment with the sun, salt water and the desert to produce high-quality food, fresh water and clean energy; all with the intention of making what seems impossible a reality: starting the path for fruit and vegetable production to bear fruit in the middle of the desert.
Two greenhouses with a production area of 1,350 square meters, in which the salt water provides the necessary conditions for the cultivation of high quality food; photovoltaic panels that will provide all the energy that this project needs; 3,200 square meters of open-air farmland and a desalination unit with capacity for 10,000 liters of water per day are, for the moment, the elements of this project, which also includes ponds for the production of salt and a laboratory for Investigation and development.
The construction of this structure started in October 2016 and began to roll in September 2017 to provide a solution that facilitates production in arid areas such as Jordan, where, in addition, the outlook regarding the climate does not give rise to hope. Temperatures are rising, rains are falling, and the country continues to see a population increase, with the arrival of hundreds of thousands of refugees from Iraq and Syria in recent years.
In this context, the improvements that the Sahara Forest Project hopes to achieve can make the difference between lack of food and water, and possibilities to obtain resources as vital as these. “The objective is to pave the way for the large-scale extension of agriculture in Jordan,” they assure from the initiative, which also underlines that all work carried out in the field follows three premises: that it is good for the people, good for environmentally friendly and good for business.
Thus, what is expected as the work progresses is that the project grows to reach twenty hectares of land and, if possible, to replicate the good results obtained during a pilot developed in Qatar. There, not only were almost twenty varieties cultivated, but progress was made towards the production of seaweed, among other initiatives.
For this reason, this line of work, which, in the case of Jordan, has been supported with funds from the Norwegian Government and the European Union, among others, is on the way to being launched in Tunisia, where the potential that could have the project in a country that, due to its geographical and climatic conditions, can also benefit a lot from alternatives that make producing in the desert a real possibility.