Norwegian optimism for environmental projects in the desert

Climate and Environment Minister Vidar Helgesen, and Crown Prince HaakonClimate and Environment Minister Vidar Helgesen, and Crown Prince Haakon.Photo: Anders Nybø / Sahara Forest Project / NTB scanpix

Norwegian optimism for cucumber and environmental projects in the desert

Crown Prince Haakon and Minister for Climate and Environment, Vidar Helgesen, see great potential for the Norwegian-supported technology that makes the desert green and fertile.


When the Crown Prince visited the Sahara Forest Project (SFP) at its timid beginning in 2012, he was slightly optimistic. Solar panels were tooperate a plant where salt water was turned into fresh water, with vegetables in moist, cool greenhouses, in the midst of the dry, burning hot desert. On Thursday, Crown Prince Haakon opened the a greenhouse in SFP’s plant in Jordan, joined byh King Abdullah, leting his enthusiasm being shown.

– It is impressive to see that they manage to produce food, drinking water, and energy in desert areas. They do this in areas that are not in use for anything useful today. If we manage to make a large scale project from this, it can help fight climate change and create ‘green’ jobs and solve important challenges facing future generations, says the Norwegian Crown Prince to NTB.


He even tasted the snack cucumbers and found that they were to his liking. Operations are presently starting fully, with a daily production of 10,000 liters of fresh water, multiple harvests every year, leading to an estimated production of 130 metric ton of vegetables in a single year.


The Minister for Climate and Environment, Vidar Helgesen, has taken the trip to Jordan in the middle of the election campaign to participate in the cucumber harvest. He points out the importance of acting immediately

– The seriousness and pace of the climate crisis have increased in the last decade. The areas that will be hit hardest are the Middle East and North Africa. In those areas there is a critical water shortage already. Drought and failing crops made the war in Syria worse and contributed to the refugee crisis. The climate crisis therefore is very important to the Middle East, Europe and therefore Norway, he says.


He sees SFP’s technological solutions and composition as a great opportunity. The plant in Jordan is the size of four football pitches, but it can be made much bigger elsewhere, there is after all a lot of salt water and desert to be found in the world.

– If the SFP succeeds, the project can be scaled up massively. This will reduce the pressure on other exposed land areas. This applies, for example, to tropical forests, says Helgesen.

The next step

A pilot project in Qatar showed that the SFP concept works and that it can be benificial both for the environment and the wallet. The plant in Jordan is based on these experiences, and during the next six months there will be feasibility reports coming from both Australia and Tunisia.

– Now we want to see if the project can also be commercialized on a bigger scale. It is important that SFP is open about what technology they employ and how it works. Therefore, if the project works on a larger scale, it can quickly be scaled up and put into use by commercial actors.

– If we are to achieve our climate and sustainability goals, we must change today’s global systems for food production and land use. We must produce more efficiently and at the same time reduce the risk of climate change, the Minister states

© NTB Scanpix / Norway Today