Climate Champion, Adejoke Lasisi, plus the International Center of Biosaline Agriculture. Dubai’s Efforts to Fight Desertification, and what is the Saudi Green Initiative?
Climate Champ–Adejoke Lasisi, the International Center of Biosaline Agriculture, Dubai’s Efforts to Fight Desertification, the Saudi Green Initiative?
CLIMATE CHAMPION, ADEJOKE LASISI AND PLANET 3R
Growing up in Nigeria, Adejoke Lasisi learned to weave by watching her mom on the loom. The skill of weaving, however, wouldn’t come in handy right away. Today, Lasisi is an Ecopreneur or ecological entrepreneur and she is the founder of Planet 3R. Planet 3R is a social enterprise dedicated to converting textile and plastic wastes into Eco-friendly products.
Lasisi had a long journey to get to Planet 3R. She started out studying medicine but switched part of the way through and earned a degree in economics. Reconnecting with her childhood love of weaving, and as a way to preserve the dying family tradition, she started a weaving venture in 2011.
After a decade of failing in her attempts to get the venture to take off. Lasisi eventually asked herself, “why can’t I use this weaving skill to create something meaningful to the environment?” That’s when she noticed the streets of her home town of Ibadan, Nigeria, were littered with single-use nylon drinking pouches, known as sachets.
Looking for a way to recycle the nylon pouches, she again failed several times before finding a refined stripping method that worked. Her looming venture took off. Now called Planet 3R, Lasisi’s company makes school bags, footwear and shopping bags, helping to upcycle some of the discarded sachets, which is helping her solve an environmental problem in her community.
Because of her work with Planet 3R, in 2020 Lasisi received the National MSME (Micro Small & Medium Enterprises) Award in Nigeria, the Africa Green Grant Award and the Young Innovator Award. Why does Lasisi’s Planet 3R matter to us? In just two short years, it has created 50 creative awareness programs; helped to educate over 4,000 students about the benefits of recycling and employs a team of 16 staff members. Planet 3R is further proof of the economic viability in the circular economy. What’s more she’s a great example of perserverance.
THE INTERNATIONAL CENTER OF BIOSALINE AGRICULTURE
The phrase “rising temperatures and extreme weather events exacerbated by climate change” is becoming all too familiar. But farmers in Dubai, located directly in the Arabian desert, are taking action through a project setting up desert farms.
The project is run by the International Center of Biosaline Agriculture (ICBA), a not-for-profit launched in the United Arab Emirates in 1999. Its mission is to find and transplant highly nutritious crops from around the world that could adapt to and survive in extreme weather conditions. In the case of UAE, specifically looking at crops that could live in high salt water content.
ICBA Agronomist Dionysia Angeliki Lyra explains, “Freshwater is becoming more and more scarce. We have to focus on how we can utilize low-quality, saline water resources for food production.”
Currently, the ICBA boasts a unique collection of over 13,000 seeds. The program has introduced non-traditional crops to the desert, such as quinoa from the South American Andes. They found that five types of quinoa seeds can grow in these extreme desert conditions. Based upon the success in Dubai, the ICBA is also introducing similar projects in rural communities in Central Asia.
Why does the International Center of Biosaline Agriculture matter to us? The work of ICBA is part of a global effort to find alternate ways to produce food, with total food demand expected to increase between 59% to 98% by 2050.
DUBAI’S EFFORTS TO FIGHT DESERTIFICATION
Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, prime minister of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and ruler of Dubai, announced UAE’s green growth strategy in 2012 that centered on building up their green economy through sustainable environmental endeavors from the green tech sector.
On that path they continue to face climate change exacerbated desertification. That’s when land and vegetation get overstressed and that ecosystem fails. The World Bank estimated that the UAE lost around 130 sq. miles of arable land and over 2% of its agricultural land between 2002 and 2018.
In 2018, Dubai’s International Center for Biosaline Agriculture (ICBA) joined up with Norwegian-based green start-up Desert Control to start conducting laboratory and field tests using liquid natural clay nanoparticles–a product the company’s founder developed in the early 2000s.
Ole Kristian Sivertsen, chief executive of Desert Control explains, “Gravity brings the tiny clay particles down into the ground, and they stick to every grain of sand they encounter. They then form a soil structure that retains water like a sponge. This, in time, turns degraded sand into fertile soil.” Soon, a layer of new soil around 20 inches deep forms.
Working with local farmers and ICBA, Desert Control used the liquid natural clay nanoparticles and planted watermelon, zucchini and pearl millet in a plot of desert in Dubai in early 2020. Five months later, the desert land had rows of fruits and vegetables with green leaves. According to Sivertsen, ICBA documented an increase in food crop yield.
- Watermelon (17%)
- Pearl millet (28%)
- Courgette (62%).
Why does Dubai’s story matter to us? It’s great when technological innovation addresses a current need, like reviving soil for agriculture, and a future but imminent need, like desertification.
THE SAUDI GREEN INITIATIVE
The United Arab Emirates’ neighbor, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia launched the Saudi Green Initiative (SGI) in 2016 to engage all levels of the kingdom –public and private– in the effort to combat climate change and protect the environment. In 2021, SGI announced 60 green projects aimed at increasing reliance on clean energy and offsetting the impact of fossil fuels.
SGI set three global climate goals:
- Protect 30% of land and sea
- Plant 10 billion trees across Saudi Arabia
- Reduce carbon emissions by 278 mtpa Million Tonnes Per Annum by 2030
One endeavor under the 10 billion tree planting project is the pilot program to plant 100 million mangrove trees. It’s run through the Ba’a Foundation, a Saudi non-profit, that preserves endangered species and natural habitats.
This ambitious pilot project will start in 2023 in the Jeddah Islamic Port – one of the busiest maritime facilities in the region. The idea is to implement there first and if it succeeds, replicate it near all industrial shipping ports. Nouf Alaskar, operating officer at the Ba’a Foundation hopes that “With the help of mangroves, the Alarbaeen Lake that is adjacent to the port will be cleaned and brought back to its natural state.”
Why does SGI matter to us? This is a significant undertaking for the Kingdom. In 2020 Saudi Arabia was ranked as the highest producer of carbon dioxide emissions per capita among the G20 countries.