Greenup Sahara

Vegetables from the desert

refugee camp

Refugee camp in the Algerian Sahara.


In the Algerian Sahara, over one hundred thousand people are living in refugee camps. They are displaced from the Western Sahara, which has been fought over for more than 40 years. The people are exposed to extreme climatic conditions that make traditional agriculture impossible. Undernourishment and malnutrition are the widespread. There is a lack of food and animal fodder, and the funds of the international organizations are limited. Providing for the people is becoming increasingly difficult.The Sahrawis need a sustainable and long-term food supply.

In cooperation with the World Food Program (WFP), Sahrawi engineer Taleb Brahim has developed a water-saving hydroponic system for growing barley as animal fodder. This gives the population access to the meat and milk of goats and camels. The system has already been replicated and adapted successfully in Jordan and Chad.

Fraunhofer and WFP have now developed a convincing concept for growing vegetables with the hydroponic system in order to address the local production of vegetables, salad and herbs.

Need for research

Based on the success of WFP's hydroponic barley cultivation, we are developing a hydroponic concept that makes the cultivation of salad, vegetables and herbs in desert regions possible. The integrated system focuses on efficient water reuse for the cascading cultivation of vegetables and animal feed. The required nutrients are sourced from local sources and people are trained on growing their own food.

According to "low tech instead of high tech", the inhabitants of the refugee camps should be able to build and operate hydroponics using local materials in a cost-effective and water-saving way. The hydroponics concept remains efficient even under extreme climatic conditions and could be applied worldwide.



Hydroponics for vegetable cultivation could secure the long-term nutrition of hundreds of thousands of people and combat malnutrition. People living under harsh environmental conditions are empowered to provide for themselves and overcome dependency behind. The pilot project could be applied in other regions of the world and contribute to the fight against climate change, world hunger and the causes of flight.

planning in sand

Sahrawi engineer Taleb Brahim (left) and IGB researcher Marc Beckett are planning a new hydroponic system.

Sponsors wanted!

In order to turn the vision into reality, the three Fraunhofer Institutes IGB, UMSICHT and ISE and in collaboration with the WFP and local people like Taleb want to develop a hydroponic system that allows cereals, vegetables and herbs to grow in an integrated way in desert regions.

For this we are looking for sponsors. The Fraunhofer Foundation supports non-profit projects of Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft and its institutes.


Further information and donation recommendations

We need 12 months to further develop a viable hydroponic solution in the Algerian desert. The project could be started immediately.

© Fraunhofer IGB

Traditional goat farming does not provide a sufficient livelihood in refugee camps.

© Fraunhofer IGB

Robust hydroponic system for barley from local materials.

grass presentation

New perspectives in the Algerian desert.

Hydroponic systems for the desert in Algeria

© Fraunhofer IGB

The barley grass grows in only one week and helps the people to feed their animals and thus themselves.

In December 2017, IGB researcher Marc Beckett visited the Sahrawi refugee camps in the Algerian desert. The visit served as a first analysis of potential activities. Since then Marc frequently exchanges with the colleagues from the WFP and engineer Taleb Brahim in order to further develop the hydroponic culture systems. Initial Contact was established via Fraunhofer Venture.

In his live blog, he reported on the experiences made during the visit to the camps.


Hydroponics Live Blog

In his blog, IGB researcher Marc Beckett reported on the experiences he made during the first visit to the camps.