Sahara Forest Project is taking on the challenges of climate change in the Middle East and North Africa. The Norwegian social enterprise will use environmental technologies to re-vegetate deserts and create green jobs through the profitable production of freshwater, food and clean energy, a process it calls "restorative growth."

Climate change is undoubtedly a global issue, no country or region is exempt from its threats. However, some areas, such as the Middle East and North Africa, are at greater risk due to their natural conditions.

Climate scientists have pointed out MENA's vulnerabilities to the effects of global warming, which has become more and more pronounced in recent years .

These vulnerabilities include the region's mostly dry desert climate, which makes the globally increasing scarcity of freshwater due to the Earth's changing climate an even bigger challenge in MENA. Furthermore, the region has recently experienced one of the worst droughts in its history .

Given that the implementation of the SFP initiative requires low-lying, arid and sunny regions with little natural vegetation, the Norwegian enterprise has chosen MENA as its first operation site.

It launched its successful pilot project in Qatar in 2012, opening the first SFP facility that has provided a research platform to demonstrate and optimize the organization's method. The project proved promising, yielding excellent results that were the subject of several UN climate change events.

This led to the launch of the initiative's second project in Jordan in 2014, where an SFP facility is currently being built, and the recent launch of its third project in Tunisia, where the construction of an SFP facility in the Sahara Desert is now being planned.

The concept of restorative growth depends on the utilization of "what we have enough of to produce what we need more of," which SFP says means using deserts, saltwater and carbon dioxide to produce freshwater, food and clean energy. The SFP method is based on using a number of already existing and proven technologies in an innovative system, combining them in one facility to produce sustainable resources.

The core technologies include using saltwater to cool year-round greenhouses for the production of food and biomass, desalinating saltwater to produce freshwater and salt, using solar power to generate electricity and heat and using evaporation hedges for establishing outside vegetation.

According to SFP, a single facility with 50 megawatts of concentrated solar power and 50 hectares of seawater greenhouses would "annually produce 34,000 tons of vegetables, employ over 800 people, export 155 gigawatt hours of electricity and sequester more than 8,250 tons of carbon dioxide."

The plan is certainly ambitious, but it is as SFP says "not too good to be true." While it may be an environmentally aware – and therefore unfamiliar – method of producing resources, sustainable approaches like SFP's are the only effective ways to challenge the threats climate change poses to water, food and energy security in MENA and the world's other vulnerable regions.