There has been a flurry of activity surrounding Beer-Sheba in the past few weeks and some more exciting developments in the next couple of days that are documented below.
Last week we had a delegation from the Israeli Embassy in Dakar make a special visit to the Beer-Sheba Project. The delegation consisted of Gideon Behar, (Israel’s Ambassador to Senegal), together with staff from the West Africa Association of Women and also a member of the Mouride brotherhood leadership. It was a very productive and informative visit. Eric as part of the Beer-Sheba leadership came away from the visit with a renewed sense progress in our efforts to take the project to the next level. Ambassador Behar was quite impressed with the work that has begun and our plans for future. In his opinion he believes that the project has everything it needs to become a model project where market gardening, cattle raising, fish farming, and forestry could thrive alongside each other. Ambassador Behar is in actively seeking to obtain funding for the installation of a TIPA irrigation scheme in Beer-Sheba for which we are grateful.
Also along on the visit was Mamadou Tounkara, a famous journalist from RTS. His words echoed the sentiment of the delegation when he stated. “I am seldom impressed. I see a lot of things as a journalist … but this place, the forest that was re-created from a barren land, this is amazing.”
In a related development coinciding with the Israeli delegation, we are very excited to have Israeli Prof. Dov Pasternak come and visit Beer-Sheba this upcoming weekend. Prof. Pasternak has been working as principal scientist in an international agriculture research institute called ICRISAT. His expertise and the impact he has made in arid agriculture are well known throughout the developing world and we are delighted to have him on site.
As for an update on our electrical requirements at Beer-Sheba, GTZ (an international cooperation enterprise for sustainable development with worldwide operations) has provided us with a feasibility and cost analysis of using their expertise in the solar electricity realm in comparison to a conventional diesel generator. Obviously, for environmental reasons and aesthetics, solar power is clearly the preferred method of delievery. What we were not sure of was the financial aspect of solar vs. diesel and how it would affect long-term viability. However, when the report came back we were pleasantly surprised. Using our basis of 5 ha of market gardens that are envisioned to be set up, directly benefiting 100 families and more than 1,000 people from the surrounding villages, a solar electrical system would pay for itself in 4 years! This is great news. Initial purchase price is obviously higher with the solar system, but the savings in an operational sense more than make up for the difference.
And finally, next week, June 24 & 25, we are receiving another very exciting visitor to the project. Well known and well-travelled humanitarian photographer Austin Mann will be spending a couple days with Eric trying to capture the people and places that together make the Beer-Sheba Project come to life. Austin has an unbelievable talent with the camera and we hope that our investment in using his gifts will help spread the word of the project. For a recent interview with Austin and his story and passion check out this interview.