Image credit: Care international in the Middle East
Jordan seems to be a hot spot for permaculture. Way back in 2006, Warren reported on a Flash video that was making the rounds called Greening the Desert, documenting how permaculture activist Geoff Lawton worked with the local population to turn 10 acres of arid, salty Jordanian desert into a lush productive garden. While funding for the project eventually ran out, a follow up to Greening the Desert showed how effectively the gardens generated fertile soil, even without much human input. I've just come across a video diary visiting two other permaculture projects in the region, both of which seem to show both the limitations and the possibilities of permaculture.Created by Emma Piper-Bucket, the video visits two permaculture projects in Jordan. The first was started by Geoff Lawton and his wife Nardia, of Greening the Desert fame. (It does appear to be a different garden to the one featured in Greening the Desert.) Geoff and Nardia now live in Australia, so the project is maintained, apparently, by Nardia's family and by foreign volunteers.
While the drip irrigation systems demonstrated in the video are impressive, it's hard to ignore the fact that the project is reliant on volunteer labor from abroad—while the volunteers describe how the local population has a hard time understanding the idea of saving and using rain water. It's yet another reminder that outsiders can only do so much when it comes to 'development' work—ultimately we have to find solutions that communities will adopt and run with themselves.
Similarly, the second project, run by CARE International, seems to struggle to convince many locals that an organic, permaculture-based approach will yield better results than chemical fertilizers. And yet the shot of two gardens next to each other—one run on permaculture principles, the other using extensive chemical inputs—is in my mind a pretty impressive contrast. Showing lush green ground cover and flowers interplanted with trees on the one side, and bare earth and trees on the other, the long term environmental and social benefits of a more integrated, holistic approach seem self-evident. So why, then, does it always seem so hard to bring people along for the ride?
More on Permaculture and Environmentalism in Jordan
From Arid, Salty Desert to Permaculture Garden: Greening the Desert Revisited (Video)
Permaculture, and a Mini-Movie
PETA Goes to Jordan with Lettuce-Clad Woman
Boosting Recycling, Scavenger Incomes in Jordan