New ambitious environmental agreement signed today: Giant Step towards green desert

Publish date: February 27, 2012

Written by: Ruth Lothe

Translated by: Charles Digges

The Sahara Forest Project, Bellona’s signature initiative for bringing arable land to desicated climates, has today signed a deal with the QAFCO fertilizer company and chemical company YARA internatonal ASA to build a pilot plant to make the desert green.

“We at Bellona are proud that the Sahara Forest Project today will sign an agreement with Yara International ASA and the Qatari QAFCO fertilizer company to build the first test plant in Qatar,” said Bellona President ​​Frederic Hauge.

The agreement will be signed at the Prime Minister’s official residence, and Norwegian  Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg and Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber Al Thani of Qatar will be present.

Potent pilot project

The test facility will be built on a 10,000 square meter square area at ​​QAFCO plant in Qatar and will show the potential to grow crops in the desert with only the use of salt water and renewable energy.

The plant will be fully operational by December 2012 and will house a unique combination of salt water greenhouses, concentrated solar power and solar cells, algae cultivation ponds and salt drying facilities.

YARA and QAFCO are to cover the cost of development, estimated at $5.3 million, or in excess of NOK 30 million.

Bellona – active owner and driving force

“Bellona has long been an advocateof  and an incubator for the Sahara Forest Project. This is a foundation and a company and we are proud to have been invovled in its development,” said Haugue.

In 2007, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change  wrote in its assessment report that rich countries must bear 80 percent of emissions cuts over the next 40 years.

In these serious signals from the world’s leading climate scientists, Bellona’s incentive was spurred to invest in an even more solid evidence-based work surrounding the challenges of climate change on a global basis, and Bellona’s solution-oriented report entitled “How to Combat Global Warming” was the foundation’s response to IPCC report.

A part of the solution, as described in the Bellona report, is to use biomass that binds CO2 in its photosynthesis and which can be used for fuel and a variety of other purposes.

Arguments against using biomass solutions to climate change have centered around the fact that biomass, until now, has created a direct conflict to food production. Maize, for example, is food. Its production places heavy burdens on arable land and requires access to quanties of fresh water.

The Sahara Forest Project will avoid the challenges of land use, both in terms of the amount of land used, and because the project is locatedin the desert, an area that does not conflict with food production.

Cultivation of algae, however, is a much better solution for the production of biomass. Algae cultivation requires much less space on non-arable land; it grows quickly and can be grown directly in salt water or salt water greenhouses.

Today the Sahara Forest Project is a foundation and a company Bellona is proud to have been involved in developing. Bellona will continue to be involved as an owner of 30 percent of the Sahara Forest Project, and will be a member of its board.Bellona recieves no income from its ownership portion.

Synergy Effect


Last year the Sahara Forest Project began construction of a similar facility in Jordan, where solar energy is used to produce fresh water and biomass in the form of algae grown in salt water.

Norwegian authorities injected into 3.6 million NOK ($643,342) into the construction of the test facility located near the Jordanian tourist town of Aqaba.

“This is a spectacular and potentially important project,” said Foreign Minister Støre told NTB Norwgian Television when the agreement for this project was signed in Amman in January last year.

“The plant in Qatar will definitely help us more quickly to find full-scale solutions in Jordan,” said Hauge.

See press release from the Sahara Forest Project for more details (downloadable at right in PDF form)

Contact Bellona:
Communication Manager Magnus Borgen,; +47 977 28 476

Contact the SFP and Qatar Pilot Plant:
The Sahara Forest Project AS

Joakim Hauge

CEO of The Sahara Forest Project


Phone: +47 40 85 61 90

Yara International ASA

Esben Tuman ,Vice President Corporate Communications


Phone: +47 905 08 400



Hamed Al Marwani

Chief Administration Officer


Phone: +974 44228591