Greening the Desert Project

Greening the Desert Project

[Narrator] So we went in and
we had a look and we thought "Oh no, this is the end of the Earth, "this is as hard as you can
get, this is hyper arid." and it's 10 acres of almost dead flat completely salted landscape. 400 meters below sea level,
lowest place on Earth, two kilometers from the Dead Sea, about two kilometers from
where Jesus was christened. Hardly got any rainfall,
we've got temperatures in August that go over 50 degrees, everybody's farming under plastic strips, everybody's spray, spray, spray, everybody's putting
synthetic fertilizer on, overgrazed with goats, just like maggots eating the flesh of the
bone, down to the bones of the country, literally like maggots, giant maggots eating it to nothing. So we designed up a
system that would harvest every single bit of rain
water that fell on it, on 10 acres, there's one
and a half kilometers of swale, water harvesting
ditch on contour, and when they're full, one million liters of water soak into the landscape, and they'll fill quite a
few times over a winter. And then we heavily
mulch those swales with organic matter, which was trash
from organic fields nearby. We put that almost half a meter deep, so we saved that, and mulched our swales, which are about two meters wide and half a meter deep on the trench, then we put micro irrigation
underneath the mulch, and then on the uphill side
of the water harvesting trench we put nitrogen fixing very
hardy pioneer desert trees, which help shade and
reduce wind evaporation and also put nitrogen into the soil, and structure the soil for us. And then on the lower side of
the trench we put fruit trees. Majoring in date palms as the long-term overstory in the end, and then we put in figs, pomegranates, guavas, mulberries, now some citrus. Within four months, we had
figs a meter high with figs on, which is impossible. We done a course, male and female course, trained up some locals,
and we got a translator who's working for the project, he had his degree in agriculture
in the Jordan university. And he got on to his mates in
the Agricultural Department "Well" he said "we couldn't grow figs, "we've got figs growing
here, we've got figs on 'em. "you better come and test the soil, "because no matter what you say, "we're either growing in salty soil "what we shouldn't be growing,
or we've desalted the soil, "and we'd like to know what we've done." They came in, and the
salt levels were dropping, so they became interested. The salt levels were
dropping around the swales. They said "you must've washed it through." See normally put huge amount of water on and washed the salt through
to the lower levels, which just makes the
groundwater more salty. In the end you'll salt it 20 meters deep if you keep doing that,
and then it'll take a thousand years to recover. And we used only one
fifth the amount of water, so the water they though
we'd washed it all through, no, we'd used one fifth,
that really got them, when they realized how
much water we hadn't used, with the same amount
of water normally used on that much area, we
could've done 50 acres. Originally, people laughed at us because we didn't put straight lines in, we went on contour with
these swales, they thought, "You've got a bulldozer,
you can flatten the desert, "you can straighten it", said we want to go on contour,
'cause we got a longer edge, and we harvest the water passively. Then we planted more
non-fruiting trees than we did fruit trees, so they laughed at us. They said "You're planting
unproductive things more than productive things,
what's the point, you know?" in soil that won't even
grow anything, you know, and then we covered all
the inside of the swale with huge amount of mulch, where they scrape all their organic
matter off and burn it, like most traditional agriculture. In the middle of winter
we got a funny email saying "We got a problem, we've got "mushrooms growing in the swale." Well they called it
fungus, but when we saw a photograph of it, it
was mushrooms, 'cause they'd never seen mushrooms,
'cause they never had that much humidity in
living history in the soil. And when you open up the
mulch, there's all these little animals there,
there's little insects and the soil has come alive, and the fungi net that's
underneath the mulch is putting off a waxy substance which is repelling the
salt away from the area. And the decomposition
is locking the salt up, and the salt is not gone, it's
become inert, and insoluble. So we could, we could
regreen the Middle East. We could regreen any desert. And we could desalt it at the same time. And if we can do it on
an insignificant, flat, little bit of 10 acres of flat desert, if you give us something with catchment, or a wadi, or a canyon, or
any of those erosion valleys we can turn it vibrant completely. You can fix all the world's problems, in a garden. You can solve them all, in a garden. You can solve all your pollution problems, and all your supply
line needs in a garden. And most people, actually today, don't actually know that. And that makes most people very insecure.

3 thoughts on “Greening the Desert Project

  1. still one of the most information dense Permaculture videos available – this and the 2000 year old food forest (along with John D Liu's Green Gold are the foundation stories of permaculture.

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