Fruitful Slopes Again

The food shortage in North Korea made many farmers cultivate even the steepest slopes. The wooded hills were cleared, which increased the risk of erosion and natural disasters. The Swiss Agency for Cooperation and Development (SCD) has also been involved in North Korea for almost 20 years and has recently held review of this time.

Since 2005 SCD has promoted the production of rice, potatoes, grain and berries on slopes together with the government and local partners. Fruit trees and grass strips protect the slopes from erosion. In a very nicely designed brochure, ten of the experts and farmers involved in the project take stock of what they were able to try through active involvement and what they have learned from their mistakes. Their perseverance was worth it. The Ministry of Environment is planning to expand their insights on 400.000 ha (instead of the originally planned 150.000).

I am very pleased with the positive feedbacks, e.g. from Ri Sung Jang, forester in Sariwon, who said, “as people can change, so slopes can be made fruitful again!” The report (in English with loads of beautiful photos) can be found at: http://bit.ly/dezaslope.

Perseverance Is Worth It

On 28th December 2014, I finally received an e-mail from Pyongyang that I had long been waiting for. Our chief wind engineer of the Alternative Energy Center, reported the following: “On 18th December we received all the material for the wind turbine that you ordered and organized for us and are extremely thankful!” But the story behind this short note began a year and a half earlier.

During a summer thunderstorm in Samhun our first self-constructed 2000-watt wind turbine was struck by lightning, damaging the generator. The farm manager and his team tried to repair the generator but had to succumb to the fact that this was not doable on the 15 m high tower of the wind turbine. They had to demount the damaged generator and transport it to the repair shop in the valley. Unfortunately, the generator fell to the ground, which broke the permanent magnets. The Alternative Energy Center asked us to order a backup generator from the manufacturer in Inner Mongolia, China. No sooner said than done, I ordered two generators while I was at it. Two months later the new generators were ready to be delivered. And then the long saga began: For months nothing happened with the first export agency because it was not clear if there were any export regulations from China that would forbid the import of wind generators to North Korea. Nothing came of the efforts of the Alternative Energy Center to drive to the border and pick up the two 35-kg generators to reduce the extremely high import costs. Winter came, then spring and summer again. During our last visit to Pyongyang in June 2014 we could finally clarify some open questions and figure out what was just rumor and what the actual export and import obstacles were. I devoted myself to the problem with new motivation and full of energy because another wind turbine (1kW) was promised for the new wind test field. Quite soon I found another supplier and looked for an importer myself. Thanks to the help of a friend this worked out and finally all the material, the generators and the tower were delivered to the border in Dandong, China. Shortly thereafter though, in November 2014, the border was closed due to Ebola restrictions and everything was up in the air again. All the more exciting was the message shortly before the New Year that everything had arrived at the Alternative Energy Center. Mr. Jang assured us: “We are preparing the installation of the wind turbines and hope to spread the knowledge of wind power in the rest of the country. I wish to thank you for all you have done for us!”