Sahara desert could regain its past glory

The Sahara Desert was once a lush landscape full of exotic plants and wildlife, before a dramatic era of climate change created the arid plains of today.

Now an ambitious, high-tech agriculture project could make the desert bloom again, and establish a new green economy in the process.

Norwegian social enterprise Sahara Forest Project (SFP) is preparing for the construction of a $30 million facility over 10 hectares in Tunisia — where desert covers around 75% of territory — which will bring together cutting edge technologies to regenerate the environment, deliver fresh food and water, and create jobs.

The SFP has developed a model based on using resources that are abundant to deliver scarcities. This principle will be reflected in the core technologies of the Tunisian facility.

The desert sun will be harnessed for solar power to heat and electrify the site. Seawater will be piped in to cool greenhouses and allow year-round cultivation of crops, a ‘biomimicry’ process inspired by the Namibian fog-basking beetle.

Seawater will also be desalinated to extract both salt and fresh water, and the humidity of the greenhouses will be used to spur the growth of new plant life outside the facility, in the hope of regenerating a wider ecosystem.

The methods may seem far-fetched, but a successful pilot of the model in Qatar produced vegetables at a comparable rate to European farms over three crops a year, while plants multiplied rapidly around it. A scaled up facility is under construction in Jordan.

-More at CNN

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