In the first part of this series, we looked at some of the larger problems facing Jordan. This installment focuses on the initial conditions of a site in Kafrin, Jordan, in which a permaculture pilot project was carried out.
Earlier, we looked at some of the problems facing Jordan. The greatest among the obstacles is an “absolute scarcity” of renewable fresh water available for use [“absolute scarcity” being less than 500 m3 per capita per year]; and the situation has been rapidly worsening. In 1946, there were 3400 m3 per person available each year. This has dropped to 155 m3 per person today, making Jordan one of the world’s poorest countries in terms of water resources. Of the water available to the nation, 62.5% goes to agriculture and 32.5% goes to household use. So, through the introduction of permaculture techniques, it is hoped that more efficient use can be made of water in Jordan.
In 2000, a project involving permaculture designer and teacher Geoff Lawton was initiated on behalf of Japan’s Nippon International Cooperation for Community Development (NICCO) and the Hashemite Fund for Human Development (JOHUD), which currently funds the management of the project.
A 5 hectare site in Kafrin, Jordan, 10 km from the Dead Sea and 6 km from the Israeli border, was selected for the pilot project. The aim was to show techniques of sound ecological management in a region with otherwise very low agricultural output, to improve local agriculture and livelihood, and to study the effect of permaculture on soils, plants, agriculture and the local environment.
Rainfall at the site comes in 2 or 3 large events and amounts to only 100 to 150 mm per year. Regular hot, desiccating winds contribute to severe evaporation on the site. The soil is very infertile with little organic matter and extremely high salinity. Soil to a depth of 30 cm was found to have 98.1 dS/m, and soil from 30 to 60 cm deep registered 101.7 dS/m, making it extremely salty. [dS/m, or decisiemens per metre, is a measure of electrical conductivity which can be used to measure soil salinity. The United States Department of Agriculture considers soil over 4 dS/m to be “saline soil.” The soils at the Kafrin site are above this level by more than an order of magnitude!] Only sparse, intermittent vegetation could exist on the site at the time the project started.
In the next article in the series, we will look at the steps taken to turn the site around.