Deforestation is a serious issue in Jordan where only 1% of land enjoys forest cover. In support of Jordan's National Strategy for Renewable Energy, SGP supported a four-project cluster initiative called called "Local Community Initiative towards Renewable Energy" to encourage communities to transition from firewood to solar energy powered water heaters. One such project, is located in the Sakeb village between Jordan's Dibeen Forest Reserve and the Ajloun Nature Reserve, an area that supports one of the last pine-oak forests in the Middle East, and includes species such as the Aleppo Pine, Palestine Oak, Greek strawberry, and Pistachio trees. The reserves are also rich in fauna including the roe deer, wild boar, porcupines, red foxes, golden jackals and various important bird species.
The village of Sakeb, the site of the project described here, is home to around 18,000 residents who often struggle with low incomes and high level of unemployment. More often than not, families have to resort to illegal logging to meet their basic energy needs for heating, which was identified as one of major causes for deforestation in the region. Recently, increasing pressure on the National Forest and increases in fuel and electricity prices raised the need to explore alternative, sustainable energy sources to avoid further degradation of the forests.
With support of the GEF Small Grants Programme, the CBO Darb AsSafsaf Charity Society initiated a demonstration project in the village of Sakeb with the goal to protect nearby surrounding forests, reduce carbon emissions, and improve the quality of life for the local community. Promoting the utilization of solar energy as an alternative to firewood and raising active engagement in forest conservation were thereby the main strategies. Poor families, who rely on firewood as a primary energy source, were targeted as the key beneficiaries.
The project design was conceptualized in a way to integrate strategies to promote sustainability and scalability of project activities from the outset. A key component there was the establishment of a revolving fund mechanism, which provides easy financial access for community members who can pay off the equipment in small installments generated by savings in electricity costs. Due to its success, the fund allowed the project to immediately expand solar energy coverage from 37 families to 118 household units and 5 community facilities. Another 7 households received energy saving devices, including energy saving light pulps and awareness on "energy label" codes. To ensure sustainability of the solar powered water heaters, two community members were trained on solar kit installation and maintenance.
The solar heater lowered household dependency on firewood, reducing illegal logging of Dibeen Reserve's large, old growth trees by 30%. A series of advocacy and information sessions achieved a greater awareness about energy use and climate change among 2,000 community members. With higher appreciation for their forests, local communities are now more involved in conserving their forest by rehabilitating 10.7 hectares of degraded forest land, and creating a network of volunteers to assist forest rangers in monitoring illegal activities.
The new EE/RE equipment benefits 500 students as well as 120 households or 720 family members, including 250 women. These participants were able to realize a 25-40% reduction in electricity costs, which has allowed them to cover payments for the new equipment and fund other essential household needs. Overall, the project enjoyed strong participation from women (600), youth (500) and of 50 physically handicapped community members throughout the project. The project also inspired the establishment of a women's organization and centre of education for disabled community members, thanks to funding from the Jordan River Foundation (JRF) and the Ministry of Social Development.
Darb AsSafsaf's success story went beyond Sakeb village inspiring other CBOs from the nearby villages to follow suit. Already, an additional 102 households received solar water heaters from five other CBOs outside Sakeb. Furthermore, two NGOs applied for a grant and three other NGOs received funding from MercyCorps to replicate the project. On a national scale, the success of the four SGP-funded cluster projects and SGP's networking with other national NGOs, resulted in the upscaling of the solar water heater project idea by the "Jordan River Foundation (JRF)" who has received $1.5 million in funding from the Ministry of Planning and International Cooperation (MoPIC). According to estimates by the NERC, this upscaling will reduce emissions by 26,000 tons of CO2 on an annual basis. Moving into SGP's next operational phase, SGP Jordan is aiming at further replicating and up-scaling the project in close collaboration with the recently established National Renewable Energy Fund (NREF), to which it has already established channels of communication.