A Solution to Reverse Africa's Growing Deserts A Solution to Reverse Africa's Growing Deserts
Design

A Solution to Reverse Africa's Growing Deserts

by Mother Nature Network

April 18, 2010
I've often said that the most sophisticated green technology on the planet is the humble tree. Trees sequester carbon, fix nitrogen into the soil, create organic compost, prevent erosion, and create rain, while providing sustainable crops, shape, lumber, and even fuel. The single most important activity on the planet (I believe) is planting trees, a fact backed up by the latest McKinsey study on abating the effects of global warming. But there is a problem.
 
Reforestation efforts in denuded lands like Africa, Mexico, India, and China have never been taken seriously as a means to abate climate change because young saplings are very, very difficult to establish. They take a lot of water and require regular maintenance—two things which are in scarce supply in precisely the regions where they are needed most.
 
But what if there were a device that eliminated those risks? A device which requires no power, has no moving parts, and literally conjures water out of the air? It sounds like a miracle, but that miracle may be upon us now with the advent of the Groasis Waterboxx.

This simple passive water harvesting device takes advantage of one attribute that most deserts have—a major temperature differential between night and day.
 
Dew is created at night when the little bit of moisture in the air condenses on semi-permeable surfaces like leaves. As soon as the sun rises, the dew quickly burns off and returns back into the air. But the ingenious little Waterboxx channels all the dew to a collection tank where it helps the young roots of a sapling tree get established. 
 
Eventually the roots become strong enough to seek their own water deep underground.
 
Pieter Hoff, the Dutch inventor of the Waterboxx recently completed a study in a desert in Morocco and the results were astonishing. With next to no care whatsoever, 100 percent of the trees in a Groasis Waterboxx survived, and nearly 90 percent were thriving. Contrast that with a standard tree-planting effort in which only 10 percent of the trees actually survived.
 
Likened to a "water battery" the Waterboxx is a passive drip irrigation system, slowly wicking a trickle of the water it collects into the tree's fledgling root system. 
 
While there is not doubt that our number one environmental priority is to prevent further deforestation, the leading cause of greenhouse gas emissions, the Groasis provides a glimmer of hope on the horizon for those working to prevent climate change (while restoring water supplies and building soil fertility) in regions that most have given up on. 
 
Note: The current Waterboxx is made out of polypropylene, but the company is working on a biodegradable version which decomposes as soon as the roots have been established.

Karl Burkart blogs about technology for the Mother Nature Network.
 
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Photo via Mother Nature Network
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A Solution to Reverse Africa's Growing Deserts