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Bedouins Reap Benefits of Solar Power

3-year-old Mohammed Abu-Kaf was was diagnosed at birth with sleep apnea, a life-threatening chronic illness. A resident of the 'recognised' village of Um Bathin, his father Hassan explained that Mohammed requires a special Seapack mask to keep his airways clear … Read More

By / April 21, 2008

3-year-old Mohammed Abu-Kaf was was diagnosed at birth with sleep apnea, a life-threatening chronic illness. A resident of the 'recognised' village of Um Bathin, his father Hassan explained that Mohammed requires a special Seapack mask to keep his airways clear when he sleeps. Sounds simple enough, except that his mask must be plugged in to a regular power supply–a necessity made difficult by the fact that many Bedouin villages aren't connected to the national grid.

Filling the void left by a government seemingly unable and unwilling to address the sometimes dire situation that many of the Bedouin population find themselves in, Bustan–an NGO comprised of Jewish and Arab eco-builders, architects, academics, and farmers promoting social and environmental justice in Israel and Palestine–has initiated a project that utilizes solar energy for sick Bedouin children in the Negev. The organization has teamed up with solar designers and manufacturers at Interdan to bring solar-powered electricity to Bedouin villages that aren't connected to the national grid, and which would obtain electricity only by using expensive diesel or gas-powered generators at each family house.

The Abu-Kaf family home is now powered by a large solar panel, which Hassan turns around twice a day to catch the sun's rays.

"Thank you to Bustan for this," says Hassan. "Now my son is a happy and healthy child. He can sleep well at night, and so me and my family can now, too." Um Bathin, a village of 3,500 residents who can trace their ancestral, semi-nomadic roots across many generations in this area, is one of seven Bedouin communities in the Negev that has been 'recognised' by the government in the past 3 years, but is still awaiting basic services such as electricity and water. Founded in 1999 by American-Israeli Devorah Brous, and now headed by Bedouin activist Ra'ed Al-Mickawi, Bustan has a mandate to bring sustainable energy solutions to communities, focusing on a fair allocation for all of such resources. Previous projects have included work on a medical clinic made from straw bales in the 'un-recognised' Bedouin village of Wadi Al-Nam, south of the city of Be'erSheva.

Bustan also offers tours of the Negev area, bringing participants directly into the Bedouin villagers' homes and meeting places, and to meetings with the manager of the Ramat Hovav–Israel’s controversial chemical plant and industrial complex– amongst other local players.

With Bustan's intervention and the involvement of Interdan, more sustainable and environmental solutions are on the horizon for Israel's marginalised communities.

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