In Senegal, a model green house is showcasing renewable energy technologies as part of efforts between the Israeli and Senegalese governments to improve food production and reduce dependence on fossil fuels.
The Israeli ambassador's residence in Dakar has undergone an eco-friendly renovation to better use renewable energy. Ambassador Gideon Behar said it is a model for how people can live in balance with their environment.
“We have added first of all a system of irrigation, which is called drip irrigation, which uses much less water and in a more effective way," said Behar. "So all the garden is installed with a goutte-a-goutte or drip irrigation. In addition to that, we have added solar energy either for heating the water for showers or the kitchen uses, but also solar system for the electricity of the house.”
The model home includes an aquaculture project that the ambassador said can help improve Senegalese nutrition.
“We are growing fish. We want to show people here in Senegal that it is very possible, with small pools of water which exist everywhere in Senegal and also in Africa, that you can grow enough food, enough protein for your needs as a family,” said Behar.
The launch of the Israeli embassy's “green house” includes demonstrations from Israeli businesses that are investing in new technologies. Senegal's Minister of Renewable Energy, Louis Seck, said that is especially important here in the Sahel - West African countries located on the fringe of the Sahara Desert.
“We have here an abundance of solar energy for pumping water, for heating water, and for running equipment like computers," he said. "So this is a great initiative by the Israeli ambassador and is part of developing renewable energy in Senegal.”
Seck said Senegal's goal is to have solar power produce 60 percent of all household energy.
“Engineers are trying to combine solar power with the national electricity provider, Senelec," he said. "This is already part of a law that is being drafted to allow people with solar power to sell back their excess power to Senelec under certain conditions.”
Solar power allows people outside Senegal's national electricity grid to have power sooner, much as cellular phones have connected villages that are still waiting for landlines.
Eyal Ben-Yaacov, who works for the Israeli firm AMN Sun Solar, said, “The problem here in Africa is the grid. And when you take an off-grid system and you bring it much faster, much cheaper to the countryside to the villages, this is something that would take years and years and years to do with the grid.”
Renewable energy minister Seck said solar power could rapidly improve the daily lives of the Senegalese people. “We are asking everyone in Senegal to be inspired by this great initiative from the Israeli embassy, this green house, which promotes a new type of housing in which a big part of the energy used will be generated by solar power.”
Behar said renewable energy is essential to meeting the challenges of global climate change. “It's a collective effort. It is in our hands the possibility to help and to protect our environment. If we don't do it now, it will be a disaster. Senegal and the Sahel countries in Africa suffer a lot from desertification, from deterioration of soil of land of climate change. If we don't take immediate action now, there will be a big disaster for these parts of Africa.”
The Israeli and Senegalese governments also are working together to adapt new technologies to Sahelian climates to alleviate poverty and meet the energy needs of societies facing higher oil prices and growing demands for electricity.