To Stop the Desert: Innovative Landscaping Projects

For millions of people on the planet “desert” is a terrible word, a synonym for hunger, thirst and death. Huge areas lacking water, and hence life, just keep growing and growing, and until recent times nothing could be done about it. Our current Water-gallery presents projects that have challenged the drought, as well as people that turn dead lands into blooming oases in the most unusual ways.

1. Israeli agricultural miracle. No wonder the farmers of the Promised Land serve as an example to the whole world. And perhaps their most impressive achievement is the narrow valley Arava, between the Dead Sea and the Red Sea. It’s a giant vegetable garden, and the research institute in the same area. To begin with, there are almost no clouds over this desert – only the scorching sun and an average rainfall of 3 cm per year. And, nevertheless, 60% of all Israel agricultural products are grown here. Pepper, melons and even capricious grapes feel just fine here. The technology in which this is possible is called drip irrigation. The essence of the method is a strict dosage of water supplied by special drippers to the root of the plant. Water is taken directly from the sea, freshening with installations based on pure solar energy. Also in Israel, sprinkler systems simulating precipitation are successfully used. This allows to evenly saturating the soil with moisture, and at the desired depth.

2. Green Chinese Wall. It’s hard to argue with the fact that the Chinese know how to build large walls. By analogy with the Great Wall, the Green Wall must soon rise to the protection of the Celestial Empire. At the moment it is the largest project on gardening in the history of mankind. Its goal is to stop the process of desertification in North China. “Yellow Dragons” (so poetically Chinese nicknamed Asian dust storms, traces of which are found even in the US) annually take away from the country up to 1300 square kilometers of territories. The project, which began in the 70s of the last century, is planned to be completed in 2050. And, to help the Chinese, genetic engineering will also come in – poplars and tamarisks for the living wall will be extremely unpretentious, adapted to the local climate and will quickly grow.

3. The Great Green Wall. African project, the name and purpose of which is similar to Chinese, but adjusted for the harsh realities. The forest belt will be narrower (15 km) then Chinese, but half as long (nearly 8,000 km). It will stretch across 11 States from Senegal to Djibouti, that is, from the Atlantic Ocean to the Red Sea. The project, for which the Global ecological Fund will allocate 119 million dollars, has not only environmental, but also economic value. Thanks to forests, the moisture will not evaporate so rapidly, which will lead to the development of agriculture and increase in incomes. It is remarkable that seedlings and seeds from other continents, capable of becoming invasive species, will not be imported into Africa – only local plants.

4. Yacouba Sawadogo Project. A living legend of Burkina Faso, “the man who has stopped the desert” – so called African farmer by the British media, which had directed a documentary about him. A traditionalist and innovator in one person, Yacouba Sawadogo did not used in his methodology the advanced gadgets and achievements. The ancient method of local farming is called “zai”. Instead of trying to plow dry soil, the natives throw the seeds in the holes. And Jacob just filled them with straw and manure. This kept the moisture that attracted the termites. The insects loosened up the soil, and the crop grew rapidly. The farmer managed to even grow trees on desert soil, and now they are practically independent of the weather. The methodology is rapidly spreading throughout the continent.

5. Stefan Malki Walking City. The French architect is known to the whole world for projects of eco-buildings, but this plan exceeds the wildest expectations. A giant platform on sixteen “legs” (originally designed for the transport of NASA missiles) will surf in the Sahara, focusing on the soil restoration. Unlike the oil platforms in the ocean, the Malka project will become a real residential city with developed infrastructure, kitchen gardens, solar and wind power stations. Therefore, land reclamation will not require outside assistance – all necessary will be obtained from the recycling of household waste and human waste products. Water in the desert will come from giant balloons-capacitors, hovering over the platform. The scheme of gardening is simple – first the moisture softens the plowed soil into which fertilizers and seeds are introduced, then everything is re-watered.

6. Seawater + desert = cucumber. Norwegian biologist Joakim Hauge project can be called a hothouse, but only conditionally. Because it is located in Qatar, on the Persian Gulf, where it’s hot already. However, it is the combination of sea water and the sun that gives the desired effect. The front wall of this building is made of cardboard and is similar to a honeycomb soaked in salt water. The hot wind passing through the honeycomb is cooled, which helps to maintain a comfortable temperature inside. And as fresh water for irrigation here it is used a condensation, accumulating on the roof at night. While in this “greenhouse on the contrary,” grow only herbaceous plants like cucumbers, barley or arugula, but scientists plan to create an algae farm for pharmaceutical needs and gradually begin to plant trees. The only downside of such “desert farming” is that the average price of a grown cucumber is still about one dollar. In response, scientists only grin, recalling that it is not just about agriculture, but about a new industry called “restorative ecology”.


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