July 2003 newsletter

–== Live from Al Joffah, Jordan in The Dead Sea Valley! ==–

Welcome to first Permaculture Research Institute newsletter coming to you live from one of the front lines of permaculture activism Al Joffah in The Dead Sea Valley in Jordan, the lowest place on earth (400m below sea level)!

In fact, just a few kilometres from the border of the Palestinian-occupied territory of the West Bank — one of the world’s most tense conflict zones — is where you’ll find the Permaculture Research Institute working on demonstration projects, consulting, designing and teaching courses for over 3 years now. These valuable actions have all help contribute to more sustainable future not only for Jordan but the Middle East region and set examples for arid land systems world wide.

Just recently, a concentrated effort has been made to demonstrate productive home gardening techniques with workshops on fast compost making using the 18 day berkley method, and some extremely hot piles have been constructed using goat and pigeon manure mixed with garden leaf litter and pruning material that would normally have been burnt. Many of our permaculture design course graduates now have exceptionally good and productive home gardens and some are now taking on teaching their own small groups in a mentoring program.

–== Our first graduate ==–

We would like to congratulate our first permaculture design course graduate Nadia Ahmed Sleiman Abu-Yahia as the first Jordanian to be awarded a Diploma of Permaculture design in the fields of education, site development and site design. During the month of June a course was taught to the Jordan Ministry of Agriculture researchers with the intention of converting one their agriculture research stations over to organic research which will the first for Jordan.

–== “Somewhere in the World“, a film ==–

During the course PRI director, Julia Harris, an award winning international documentary film maker worked closely with the PRI team for 10 days using a local camera man to record footage of our work and impact in Jordan. This film footage has now been edited into a 45 minute television documentary entitled “Somewhere in the World“, and is being reviewed by television networks now. Check our website for announcements of where it can be viewed.

–== In other news ==–

The Jordanian Fund for Human Development founded by members of the Jordanian royal family recently contracted PRI director Geoff Lawton for one month to research and write up a proposal to attract funding to extend the work of the permaculture project demonstration farm education centre in The Dead Sea Valley and to create a replica project in Shoubak. Shoubak is in the south of Jordan in the highest altitude region of the country with rounded landscape profiles and cold winter temperatures below freezing with light snow falls allowing for the demonstration of different design techniques.

Part of the proposal has already been funded and an organic kitchen restaurant is being built on the project farm in The Dead Sea Valley and the main structure is already complete. When this proposal gets fully funded there will a number of permaculture project positions available for permaculture teachers and administrators through the PRI.

–== Kiribati action! ==–

In the first week of July a team of PRI directors consisting of Andrew Jones, Paul Brant and Geoff Lawton joined by Jeff Young, a consultant from Organic Gem Organic Fertilizer, were contracted by Counterpart International to perform a 10 day consultancy in Kiribati on the island of South Tarawa in the South Pacific.

The team completed a full analysis of the islands landscape, history, ecology, local industry, economy, politics, cultural needs and waste stream recourses a report was submitted outlining the permaculture design approach to correct the present problems and achieve sustainable future development. Part of the recommendations are to start an integrated permaculture demonstration site and education centre with programs to train local people to become permaculture teachers to extend permaculture design techniques throughout all the outer islands of the Kiribati region.

The proposal was enthusiastically received and a second proposal is now under way to attract funding to complete this task and hopefully set an example of sustainable development for use throughout the South Pacific.

–== On the road to Tikrit ==–

PRI director Geoff Lawton has now completed 3 consultancy trips into Northern Iraq since the last week of June through to the third week of October, contracted by Counterpart International’s Iraq office. Working out of the counterpart office in Erbil one of the ancient cities of Kurdistan a design was drawn up to rebuild a complete village destroyed by the Sadam Hussein regime 60 kilometres outside of Erbil on the road to Tirkrit, as part of the United Nations High Commission for Refugees IDP (internally displaced people) resettlement program.

In total 52 houses were built using straw bale as the main building technique, Northern Iraq has 6,000 square kilometres of wheat fields and a large proportion of the straw is burnt every year. Straw bales are an ideal locally available building material of low cost, high insulation factor, very low embodied energy rating and local people can easily learn to build and maintain their own houses with these techniques. A pump and well were installed, header tank, water system to each house plus 5 large grey water biological cleaning systems in form of 60 square meter surface area reed beds with clean water out flow going to swales planted to fruit trees, coppiced woodlot fuel wood system and vegetable crop gardens.

Designs were drawn up for small animal systems not only for production, but also to interact as flow down fertilizing elements contributing to the whole system design approach of permaculture. On the final consultancy trip in October, Geoff was accompanied by his new wife Nadia from Jordan, who, being able to communicate with the local village ladies in Arabic was able teach organic gardening and compost techniques in comfortable relaxed manner that was greatly appreciated, proving herself to be a very valuable part of a final team consultancy effort.

All houses face south for good, passive solar aspect and all the new roads designed into the village run off water to benefit the productive growing systems integrated throughout the settlement. A large rock gabion was built across a badly eroded valley running next to the village site using earth moving machinery. The purpose of this is to slow down the large volumes of water that cascade down the valley for short periods of time during the few large occurrences of rain that regularly happen each winter. In doing so, all soils, silts, sands and stones being carried by the violent stream flows will settle out just upstream from the rock gabion forming a large fertile and damp silt field, 200m long by 30m wide at its widest point and 5m deep at its deepest point. This will not only moderate the flow down stream and reduce erosion, it will also create a deep fertile silt field that will remain damp for many months after the winter rains allowing the villagers to plant their main locally consumed food crops without the need for extra irrigation water.

Surrounding the silt field year after year residual water will sponge and soak into the surrounding landscape, creating the capability for the planting of a diverse mixture of productive trees which in turn with enhance the ability of retaining its seasonal moisture through reducing evaporation by shade and wind shelter.

The World Vision office has just recently been in touch with Geoff in regard to consulting on biological reed bed cleaning systems for grey water and sewerage systems in the western desert region of Iraq.

–== Geoff’s course ==–

PRI director Geoff Lawton intends to teach a permaculture design course in Cooroy, Queensland, Australia at the end of March 2004, keep your eye on the website for details. Geoff and fellow PRI director Andrew Jones have been invited to teach a permaculture design certificate course at Tulane University in New Orleans, Louisiana, USA in May 2004, and Geoff’s also been invited to teach a short permaculture course in Honduras just before the Louisiana course by Sustainable Harvest International.

–== Permaculture resource list ==–

The website is updated regularly and has 14 slide show albums in the photo gallery with 348 photos with 442 comments more being added all the time. Extensive text and photographic details of the Jordan, Iraq and Kiribati can be found in the “Photo Gallery”.

There are 7 articles in the articles section with more being added and if you have written an article you think we would like to submit please send it in to us and we will review it for submission.

There have been 158 question topics posted on the website forum and 539 answers posted in return and we would like to take this opportunity to send out a very big thank you to all our very talented and knowledgeable regulars from the global permaculture nation who do such a great job answering those questions. You really are helping help the world become a more sustainable place.



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