Energy Observer, the first electrical vessel propelled by renewable energy and hydrogen, has berthed in Tunisia, the first stopover of its Mediterranean Odyssey on the southern coast and also, its first contact with the African continent. An opportunity for the Energy Observer crew led by Victorien Erussard, founder and captain, and Jérôme Delafosse, expedition leader to explore local initiatives in this rapidly changing country which is the first Arab Spring country to become a democracy. Their goal: to raise awareness among citizens, entrepreneurs, and politicians about the environmental issues of the Mediterranean.
First African stopover of Energy Observer
After 50 hours of sailing from Cagliari in Sardinia, and after passing the Island of Zembra, a UNESCO biosphere reserve, the vessel reached Gammarth, Tunisia, on the 19th of April.
The Mediterranean Sea is a laboratory of climate change because it concentrates major environmental issues of the 21st century. Tunisia was an essential step in enabling us to discover a new climatic, territorial and social reality
Like the majority of Mediterranean countries, Tunisia is subject to a strong environmental pressure. Various forms of pollution, rising sea levels, destruction of coastlines, desertification linked to climate change and human activity; these are the types of challenges faced by this magnificent country
A stopover dedicated to the search for local initiatives and people engaged with the ecological movement.
Since the advent of democracy, Tunisia has witnessed the emergence of associations which have set themselves the objective of addressing environmental challenges and protesting against the major sources of pollution. These are the local initiatives that the team set out to discover while filming their documentary series The Odyssey for the Future, which will be broadcast this fall on Planete+.
In the humid zone of Ghar El Melh, Bizerte, local WWF agents are fighting to preserve this fragile ecosystem which is threatened by rise of sea levels and unrestrained urbanization. It is home to the ancestral irrigation technique of the ‘El Gattaya’ cultures, that uses the phenomenon of the tides. It is also a preferred location for local fishermen, who practice their activity in an environmentally responsible manner, but whose future is threatened by waste waters dumped in the lagoon.
Then, the Energy Observer team left for the Gabès region to discover an initiative to preserve the seaside oasis of Chenini, in the company of Mabrouk Jabri, president of the association Terre et Humanisme and close relation of Pierre Rabhi, who is working for the transmission of agro-ecological techniques and food self-sufficiency. He is one of the strong voices in favor of sustainable development, but was silenced under the dictatorship of Ben Ali.
Inspirational encounters for the explorers of the future:
Mabrouk Jabri showed us this oasis, which has been heavily impacted by the depletion of water tables, and also the efforts made by citizens in an attempt to save one of the pillars of Tunisian culture. He's moderately optimistic about the chances of saving this oasis culture but refuses to give up hope. Together with ASOC, another association, he continues to strive for the preservation of this heritage site, hoping to pass it on to future generations.
We were charmed by the hospitality, the open-mindedness, and the political and ecological awareness shown by the men and women that we met. The Tunisians received Energy Observer as if the vessel was a beacon of hope, and that's a real honor for us
Energy Observer left the Tunisian coast on Tuesday, April 24 at 14:00, headed to Malta where it arrived on the evening of Thursday, April 26. The vessel will return to North Africa next September, to discover Morocco and Algeria.
Energy Observer’s Tunisian stopover in figures:
> 1000 km traveled from Tunis to Tataouine at the gates of the Sahara
> 1 visit to the Unesco Biosphere Reserve: Zembra Island.
> 6 days of field visits, meeting local initiatives
> 2 visits to endangered sites : the Chenini Oasis and the wetlands of Garh el Melh.
> 1 prediction: unless immediate action is taken, the United Nations predict that from now until 2045, 135 million people will be forced to emigrate due to desertification – the Sahara-Sahel region will be the most seriously affected.