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Sahara Forest Project praised for impact on food safety, land preservation

By Hana Namrouqa - Nov 16,2017 - Last updated at Nov 16,2017

International experts discuss the Sahara Forest Project during a session on the sidelines of the COP23 in Bonn on Wednesday (Photo by Hana Namrouqa)

BONN — International experts on climate, forests and revegetation on Wednesday described the Sahara Forest Project as “inspirational”, calling for a scaling up and replication of the project in developing countries to address food security and land degradation challenges.

The Sahara Forest Project embodies the core goals of the ongoing 23rd Conference of the Parties (COP23), the experts said following Minister of Environment Yaseen Khayyat’s review of the driving factors, goals and expected outcomes for the project during a session hosted on the sidelines of the COP23.

Sharing the Jordanian experience in Sahara project, which was launched in September in Aqaba under the patronage of His Majesty King Abdullah and Crown Prince Haakon of Norway, Khayyat underlined that Jordan is a “real-life test for innovative and daring solutions to water, energy and food challenges”.

“The project’s concept is based on sound science and this must provide a big boost for its potential success. [It] serves as a base towards creating green jobs, sustainable production of food, energy and water…,” Khayyat said at the session.

The project aims at producing 10,000 litres of fresh water per day and up to 130,000 kilogrammes of vegetables annually, in addition to production of solar power, according to the minister.

Khayyat reiterated that the project enjoys strong political commitment, noting that the pilot is scheduled to be transferred to a large-scale scheme in the future.

“This is the beginning of a long, green, fruitful pathway and the Sahara Forest Project is the beacon that will shed light on yet-to-come missions,” Khayyat told the gathering.

The 30-dunum Sahara Forest Project Launch Station, located outside the port city of Aqaba is mainly financed by Norway and the EU.

It uses sun, saltwater, desert areas and CO2 to produce food, fresh water and clean energy. 

At the session, Chief Executive Officer of the Sahara Forest Project Joakim Hauge highlighted that food is a global commodity, noting that, by finding new ways for producing food and revegetating, pressure is also taken away from deforestation elsewhere, while land degradation in dry areas is reversed.

Camilla Nordheim-Larsen, programme coordinator at the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), said that the project is interesting for multiple reasons, stressing that it is unique in its the involvement of private investors. 

“We, at UNCCD, try to bring attention to investing in restoration of land, and I’ve seen that there’s an enormous appetite from investors in sustainability, the environment and the social aspects and the project [Sahara] brings together the three elements…,” Larsen noted.

Meanwhile, Tim Christophersen, coordinator of the freshwater, land and climate branch at the UN Environment Programme and Chair of the Global Partnership on Forest and Landscape Restoration, called for scaling up the Sahara Forest Project.

“The main value of this project in my opinion is an inspiration; because we valued [at] the Global Partnership on Forest and Landscape Restoration that there are around two billion hectares of degraded lands worldwide…, what we need to do is unleash the private sector’s entrepreneurship, finance and innovation capacity to scale it up,” Christophersen said.

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