Geothermal spark in Djibouti for electricity access and potable water

  • The Institute of Management of the Sant’Anna School, Pisa, Italy, is taking part in research activities as part of the Geothermal Village project, one of the initiatives of the European LEAP-RE project, funded by the European Commission under the Horizon2020 line, at Lake Abbè, Djibouti.
  • The research team is represented by Fabio Iannone, a research fellow at the Sustainability Management Laboratory.

The local communities involved are ethnic Afar, a group with a semi-nomadic nature and who mainly practice herding as their only means of livelihood. In fact, there are no agricultural activities in those territories, both because of the conformation of the area, which is predominantly arid, and because of cultural traditions of the Afar.

The development of low-enthalpy geothermal energy would make it possible to meet the most basic needs, such as being able to access electricity (totally absent) and drinking water. The Afar in the Lake Abbé communities, in fact, have no water other than that of Lake Abbé, which is salty. Access to potable water would allow an improvement in basic feeding conditions and the ability to use water for irrigation. In addition to the direct pursuit of Sustainable Development Goals Nos. 2, 6 and 7 set by the United Nations in the 2030 Agenda, the efficiency and effectiveness of other necessary services that are also absent in whole or in part, such as health and education (SDGs Nos. 3 and 4), could be increased. There are, in addition, opportunities to create jobs through tourism, which is currently underdeveloped due to the lack of water, energy and roads.

The main objective of the activities, in addition to increasing knowledge and awareness on the issues of access to energy and the possibilities given by geothermal energy, is to understand what social needs and expectations the Geothermal Village project should respond to. The work in the Lake Abbé area involves focus groups and in-depth interviews conducted with members of local communities, representatives of authorities (Prefecture, Government, etc.), and representatives of different types of stakeholders potentially benefiting from or affected by the project (e.g., national public water company). The activities are not intended to be exhausted and will include further study.

What has been done in Djibouti (and already done in Kenya), which will be repeated in Rwanda and hopefully in Ethiopia, will make it possible to structure a management model for the Geothermal Village facility that can maximize social, economic and environmental benefits. The Geothermal Village project, in fact, aims to have a geothermal management model that provides for the direct involvement of local communities in the implementation, development and management phases of the plant.

Author: Bryan Groenendaal

Source: Sant’Anna School of Advanced Studies

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