During the summer drought of the Moroccan desert, fog nets are used to provide drinking water to hundreds of thousands of people in remote mountain villages.
Now villagers can irrigate agricultural fields, turning desertified land into verdant gardens, all thanks to mathematician and businessman Aissa Derhem.
Derhem lived in Canada during his doctoral studies. in mathematics in the 1980s. It was there that he learned how, in the driest place on earth, the Atacama Desert in Chile, where it has officially never rained, locals use anti-fog nets to capture the little humidity that penetrates the landscape.
The Fog Net is a multi-layered mesh designed to attract and accumulate water particles in areas where oceanic fog is common, but rain is not. Derhem began to wonder if the same idea might help solve the myriad water problems in his hometown on the slopes of Mount Boutmezguida in the Little Atlas range of southwestern Morocco.
The population there is largely made up of Berber communities, particularly women, children and the elderly; the men are often away for months at a time, looking for work in the cities. In recent years, the region has been increasingly threatened by drought; the desert has spread and the water table is gradually sinking.
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There, however, relative to the Atacama, the winds routinely exceed 70 miles per hour, and the fog netting designs then in existence could not cope. Driving his Moroccan NGO Dar Si Hmad, Derhem partnered with a German charity known as Wasserstiftung, which helped create the innovative technology known as Aqualonis, formerly known as CloudFisher , to capture drinking water and withstand much higher wind speeds than previous versions. .
When the stakeholders were developing the fog catchers in the Atacama in Chile, the funding they received from the Australian Embassy allowed them to build six of these fog nets. In an area of approximately 2,600 square feet, they used nearly a mile of tubing and a fiberglass container to capture more than 1,000 liters of water per day.
With over ten thousand square feet of installed capacity, Dehrem’s is the largest fog collection site on Earth, and around 1,600 residents of this remote region will each have a water supply of 18 liters a day, exclusively from the nets fog collection.
It’s just another example of modern innovations coming from the Global South.
The drought-stricken state of California, which has already borrowed water-saving strategies from India, could use these nets along the coasts of San Francisco, Oakland, Point Reyes, Monterrey and Santa Barbara.
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Mount Boutmezguida is remote and dry, and fog streaks could deliver three times as much water if placed closer to the coast at a lower elevation. As with everything in economics, one of the clearest indicators for entrepreneurs is to watch how people vote with their feet.
Families return to the mountain villages from which they were born, the ultimate proof of Derhem’s success.
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