Desertification is a large global problem, particularly prevalent in Africa. Once the dust has started to push into a new territory, it is very hard to keep it at bay. It is estimated that Africa has lost 650 000 km2 of productive agricultural land over the last 50 years. Fighting desertification can be a difficult task especially in Africa where water resources are often thinly stretched to meet the demands of surrounding communities.
In Morocco, an innovative approach is being used to stop the desert encroaching on the city of Ouarzazate. The existing dam provides water for household use, irrigation, cooling wind turbines and cleaning the mirrors of the Noor solar plant nearby, the largest in Africa. There is little water left for other uses. However, this city has started an initiative to build a greenbelt to protect the city from dust, land degradation and desertification. To meet the extra water demand of this 635 hectare greenbelt, the city is recycling waste water.
Household waste water is collected and filtered through a series of lagoons, then is pumped to the greenbelt project site using solar power! They are now processing even more waste water than is needed for the project, and excess water is being used for other greening efforts within the city. In addition to slowing land degradation, this greenbelt is providing a shady recreation area within the city, increasing land value and honey production within the city, all while creating local jobs.
Ouarzazate has recently hosted a three-day workshop with partners in Benin, Ethiopia and Ghana to share best practices and their experience with the use of waste water to water trees. I was recently able to attend a workshop where three West African partners shared best practices and their experiences with the implementation of semi industrial scale biogas reactors. One of the biggest take aways for me from this workshop was that this ability for sharing seemed to both motivated all partners, giving them a sense of common purpose and involvement. I could imagine that a similar feeling of alleviation of isolation within a project could come out of this workshop in Morocco as well, and foster the building of a network to tackle future issues.
Through this project, it sounds like they have found a sustainable and local solution to save Ouarzazate.
See full story here.
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