To transition Jordanian communities from firewood to solar-powered water heaters and halt deforestation, the Global Environment Facility (GEF) Small Grants Program (SGP) supported Local Community Initiative towards Renewable Energy, a four-project cluster under the Jordan’s National Strategy for Renewable Energy.
New solar-powered water heaters to the Sakeb village in Jordan.
Deforestation as Economic Problem
Jordan’s only 1% of forest land faces serious deforestation that stems from a deeper economic problem.
One such area is the Sakeb village between the Dibeen Forest Reserve and the Ajloun Nature Reserve. The village – also a project site – supports one of the last pine-oak forests in the Middle East that’s home to species such as the Aleppo pine, Palestine oak, Greek strawberry and Pistachio trees, and rich wildlife.
Forest land around the Sakeb Village near the Dibeen Forest Reserve.
High unemployment amid fuel and electricity price climb drove struggling 18,000 Sakebians to illegal logging to meet their basic energy needs for heating. The resulting deforestation exposed the need to explore and transition to alternative, sustainable energy sources to avoid further degradation of the forests.
The Solar Heater
Sakeb’s Darb AsSafsaf Charity Society kick-started with a pilot project that helps poor families purchase solar-powered water heaters and cut their demand for firewood.
Thanks to the revolving fund mechanism, a key project component, families also enjoy easy financial access to pay off the cost of the solar-powered water heaters in small installments that the savings from shrunk electricity costs now provide.
Community workshop in the Sakeb village, Jordan.
The demand for solar-powered heating grew from 37 to 118 households and five community facilities. Another seven households now use energy efficient light bulbs and label codes. Two trained community members help other families with solar kit installation and maintenance.
The solar-induced slide in household dependency on firewood reduced illegal logging of Dibeen’s large, old growth trees by 30%. A series of advocacy and information sessions also educated some 2,000 community members (including 600 women, 500 youth, and 50 handicapped individuals) to use energy more sustainably.
The rehabilitation of 10.7 hectares of degraded forest land and creation of a volunteer network to assist rangers in monitoring illegal logging top community’s involvement in curbing carbon emissions and felling.
A view of the Dibeen and Ajloun Forest Reserves
The new solar equipment also helps 500 school students and 720 family members, 250 of whom are women, stay warm without harming the environment. These villagers were able to cut 25%-40% in electricity costs, and pay for new equipment and other household needs.
Spreading to neighboring settlements, the Sakeb village success story brought solar heaters to 102 more households outside of Sakeb and spurred five other NGOs to replicate.
Jordan’s Ministry of Planning and International Cooperation provided US$1.5 million to the Jordan River Foundation to upscale the solar heater project at the country level. This will curb the annual amount of CO2 emissions by 26,000 tons.
In the next operational phase, SGP Jordan aims to further replicate and upscale the project in close collaboration with the recently established National Renewable Energy Fund (NREF).