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Embracing technology for a better tomorrow

by ABDIKARII M JAMA BARRE

Technological innovations are dictating the dizzying pace and convoluted shapes of the world economy. Numerous man-hours are being dispensed so as to ensure technology translates to a panacea for both manmade and Mother Nature oriented challenges. More than any other economies, less developed countries need to embrace technology so as to hasten much needed economic transformation.

Somalia falls at the dead center of countries that are in dire need of embracing technology to jump-start and drive various sectors of the economy. Somaliland University of Technology that was founded in 2000 provides a crucial platform through which the country can grow and adapt technology to fit the unique needs of the country. Whereas the country has arid weather, insufficient infrastructure and a fledgling government, it is ironically blessed with rich mineral deposits, a long coastline and a favourable land for agricultural activities.

The country is well positioned to exploit technology so as to turn its current state of affairs while unlocking its docile potential, finally bearing fruition to the “Last frontier for investment in the African continent,” tag. Egypt comes across as a country that Somalia can borrow a leaf from. Its been plagued by droughts, floods and long famines. But it has managed to come top of these challenges by skillful management of the River Nile waters. It has tamed its harsh climate and deserts.

Egypt has successfully harnessed the Nile resource through technology to generate electricity that powers industries as well as irrigating farms for food security. If technology has sufficed the 100 million population of Egypt then it should do wonders for Somali’s 12 million.

Seawater Greenhouse

This is one great agricultural technology that boosts yields hence the much craved for food security. The technology involves the use of a greenhouse structure that enables the growth of crops in arid areas using seawater and solar energy. It buttresses agriculture against vulnerabilities of the weather.

The technology involves pumping seawater (or where possible to gravitate) to the farming location then subjecting it to two processes. First it is humidified to cool the air. Secondly it is evaporated by solar heating and distilled to produce fresh water. Finally the remaining humidified air is expelled from the greenhouse and used to improve conditions for outdoor plants.

This technology has been tested and proven in Spain, United Arab Emirates and Oman. In Australia it is used in the commercial production of vegetables.

Solid Water Irrigation system or simply solid rain is definitely a technology that the government and people of Somalia would want to take time and study to determine if actionable. It is an alternative to the problem of drought plagued areas and even to other systems of irrigation. It is a system for planting solidified water in crop fields. It is a formula made up of potassium polyacrylate powder particles that when mixed with soil allows it to hold water 500 times its liquid weight hence forming a water reservoir and slowly feed plants. The stored water can last up to one year from the time it captures rainwater. The formula that goes by more official name, water silos, can be removed from the soil and rehydrated at every crop-cycle and has a life span of up to ten years during which they will provide plants with regular water allowing the plant to be ventilated and preventing evaporation.

Its effectiveness has been proven. In 2005 a comparative study of cornfields (maize), one using traditional rain fed irrigation system, harvested 600 kilograms per hectare while solid rain irrigation system collected 10 tons of grains per hectare. The technology has been successfully used in in India for the cultivation of papaya, mango, peanut, cotton, wheat and coconut palms as well as in Colombia in rose and carnation greenhouses.

Researchers recorded 75 per cent savings in irrigation costs, 100 per cent increase in foliage and flowers and a 300 per cent in root development with a matching yield increase.

Desertification, climate change and uncertainty about rain seasons makes this system crucial for Somalia as it offers the possibility of storing water in bags and in solid form, allowing it to be transported to places that water is scarce or nil. This technology was developed by a Mexican engineer, Sergio Jesus Rico Velasco. In 2012 he was nominated for the Global Water Award 2012, which is awarded each year by Stockholm Water institute located in Sweden.

Though the system has received its own share of criticism, the food security it promises to sustain should trigger the necessary conversation and action around it.

Electricity is one crucial factor that can wholly determine if investors will come flocking into the country or not. Somalia needs investors, however a stumbling block stands to hinder this inward movement of capital.

Currently the country relies on expensive diesel powered generators to generate electricity. This comes with extravagant operational and maintenance costs. The business community as well as general populace has to bear this huge cost, definite deterrent for would be investors and raises cost of living for ordinary Somalis.

Somalia enjoys lengthy periods of sunny conditions. In this lies a resource that remains untapped for which the country stands to benefit highly when harnessed correctly.

GemaSolar, a solar plant developed by Terresol Energy of Spain has the ability to innovatively harness solar energy. The company has set up a solar power plant that has the unique ability to keep producing electricity even during the night. This solves the problem alternative sources of energy: solar panels that cannot convert solar energy into electricity at night, wind power that only works when it is windy and wave power that disappears when the seas are not turbulent.

The plant has an array of 2650 mirrors with a total reflective surface of about 300000 square meters to concentrate sunlight into a solar collector that is heated up to 500 degrees to boil water and produce steam.

The system uses a mass of salt as a heat sink to collect the heat and store the thermal energy. Once the salt is heated it turns into molten salt that can store the thermal energy and enable for electric generation for up to 15 hours without solar feed. The plant is capable of producing 110 gig watts per year that is enough to power 25000 households.

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