Climate Finance | February 14, 2023

Sand to Green secures $1 million to regenerate Morocco’s desert

Jessica Pothering
ImpactAlpha Editor

Jessica Pothering

ImpactAlpha, February 14 – France and Morocco-based Sand to Green is completing a three-year sustainable agroforestry pilot that uses valuable crops, like rosemary and peas, to restore degraded land in Morocco for food production. It’s next phase: restoring a 50-acre plot of desert.

Nearly half of Moroccans make their living from agriculture. The country, which is two-thirds desert, is losing arable land to desertification. Farmers in the southern region “are having to leave because they can’t cultivate their land anymore,” Sand to Green’s Benjamin Rombaut told ImpactAlpha.

BFA Global’s Catalyst Fund and Norwegian VC firm Katapult backed Sand to Green’s pre-seed round. Sand to Green is looking to raise €500,000 to €600,000 for the project, which it will operate. It’s investing its own capital as well.

“For the first one, it’s important to show investors that we’re chipping in,” Rombaut said. “Longer-term, we’d like to be able to export the model without being the operator. We want others to replicate this so it can scale.”

Tech for nature

Sand to Green’s model incorporates drip irrigation systems are fed with water from solar-powered desalination plants. Rombaut says he’s excited by emerging, low-cost desalination technologies. For now, the company will offset its desalination costs by selling carbon credits generated from the land’s improvement.

“There are so many ways that technology can be useful in nature,” said Rombaut. “We can’t just invest in technology for the sake of technology. If we don’t integrate it with nature, it’s pointless.”

Proof points

For its pilot, Rombaut says the company “ had better than expected results.” Along with successful replanting, biodiversity is returning, with birds, insects, rabbits and other small animals coming back to the area.

“Humanity has destroyed a lot of nature,” said Rombaut, “but just a bit of help can restore it quickly.”