TREES IN THE DESERT

The Challenge

Egypt is covered with over 95 per cent of desert, while only 5 per cent is arable land. Annually, 12,000 hectares are lost, due to desertification and construction work. To feed it’s strongly growing population (2 per cent annually) and prevent further urbanization, the future of agriculture (and general living circumstances) in Egypt is in the desert. Since its inception, SEKEM is reclaiming desert land, turning it into fertile living soil. This would not be possible without trees that protect the land from erosion, give shade and create a suitable micro climate. The project will contribute to adaptation to climate change in Egypt. Furthermore, trees and timber are a rare (and thus valuable) good in Egypt, which has great potential to promote rural development.

In 2012, SEKEM became interested to generate complementary income, through sustainable wood harvesting and obtaining carbon credits for the carbon stored in these trees. Face the Future became involved as a potential partner, providing consultancy in tree planting and the development of a forest carbon component within the project under Gold Standard. Face the Future visited SEKEM in 2013 and executed a carbon feasibility study. The main conclusion was that financing from carbon storage in the trees alone did not contribute significantly to the cost-benefit scenarios of the project.

The Solution

However, with the recent introduction of new carbon assessment methodologies that do not only consider carbon sequestration in tree biomass, but also accept soil as a carbon pool, SEKEM and Face the Future intend to re-assess the carbon component of the desert greening project in Egypt, including the potential for carbon sequestration in the soil through sustainable farming practices. Additionally, we intend to identify (novel) techniques that increase resource use efficiency (such as water, biomass and energy) and financing options for project implementation.

Based on these assessments aim to develop a project scenario that demonstrates a financially feasible strategy for sustainable desert greening and which will ultimately contribute to:

– Enhanced food security
– Reversal of desertification
– Positive changes in the global and local (micro-) climate
– Increased employment opportunities

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