Aid ProjectsPlant SystemsSoil RehabilitationSoil SalinationSwalesWater Harvesting

Use of permaculture under salinity and drought conditions

Jordan is an arid country with limited water resources. The available renewable fresh water resources dropped drastically to an annual per capita share of 155 m3 in recent years compared to 3400 m3/cap/year in 1946. It is considered also as one of the 10 poorest countries worldwide in water resources (Countries with less than 500 m3/capita/year are regarded as having “absolute scarcity”).

In 2004, the total water use in Jordan was 866 million cubic meters (MCM) at the total population of about 5 million people. The total renewable resources in Jordan is estimated at 780 MCM include ground water at 275 MCM/year and surface water at 505 MCM/year of which only 70% is of economic use. An additional 143 MCM/year is estimated to be available from fossil aquifers. Brackish aquifers are not yet fully explored but at least 25 MCM/year is expected to be accessible for urban uses after desalination.

The demand on water use has been increased with increasing the socioeconomic development in the country. Agriculture consumes the major parts of water resources of about 62.5% of the available resources, domestic use consumes about 32.5% while industry about 4.3% and rural uses is 0.8% of the available water resources.

Surface water resources distributed unevenly in 15 basins. The long term average base flow for all basins is about 359 MCM/Year. Yarmuk River Basin is Jordan’s greatest source of surface water, it accounts for about 40% of the annual total. This includes water flowing from Syrian territories within the Yarmuk Basin. Yarmuk River is the major tributary of King Abdullah Canal, which is considered the main source for irrigation in Jordan Valley. Other surface resources include Zarqa River and several wadis that run from the highlands to the Jordan Rift Area. Zarqa River flow received treated wastewater from As Samra treatment plant and other treatment plants serving Amman and Zarqa areas. The Jordanian Government has extensively developed surface water resources in Jordan with the priority being given to the construction of Dams and Irrigation Projects in the Jordan Rift Valley.

Groundwater is considered to be the major source of water in Jordan, and the only source of water in some areas of the country. 12 groundwater basins have been identified in Jordan and most basins are comprised of several groundwater aquifer systems.

The long term safe yield of renewable groundwater resources has been estimated at 277 MCM/year. Some of the renewable groundwater resources are presently exploited to their maximum capacity and in some cases beyond safe yield. Overexploitation of ground water aquifers will contribute significantly to the degradation of ground water quality and endangers the sustainability of these resources for future use. The main nonrenewable groundwater resource in Jordan exists in the Disi aquifer in the South, with a safe yield of 125 MCM/ year for 50 years. Other nonrenewable groundwater resources are estimated at an annual safe yield of 18 MCM.

Treated wastewater generated at 18 existing wastewater treatment plants in the country. The majority of treated wastewater is discharged into various water courses and flows downstream to the Jordan Valley for irrigation purposes. In 1997, the amounts of treated wastewater estimated at 65 MCM where about 56 MCM used for irrigation in Jordan Valley. By the year 2020, it is expected that the volume of treated wastewater will reach to 220 MCM and will constitute a significant portion of the total irrigation demand.

Water quality of many water resources dropped down where salinity increases like ground water in North Badia and Jordan Valley due to over pumping. Amman-Zarqa basin polluted due to pollution of Zarqa river and dumping of wastewater from Khirbit Al-Samra treatment plant. Saline and brackish water resources are available in many places in the country especially in South Jordan Valley. These are recognized as important water resource for irrigation purposes. The use of these resources without appropriate management resulted in salinity build up in soil profile in some places in the Jordan Valley.

Irrigation water management and distribution in Jordan is held by the Ministry of Water & Irrigation (MWI). Other organizations are also related to management of irrigation water like Ministry of Agriculture which is responsible on irrigation water management on-Farm level. NCARTT is responsible on improving the applied technologies and management practices at farm level. The Ministry of Health is responsible on the water quality issues of drinking water. The Ministry of Environment starts to put standards and guidelines for different sources of water including wastewater and other sources.

Participatory water management approach is a new adopted concept in Jordan. Some examples on participatory irrigation water management present in some parts of the country, for example North of Jordan Valley, “Al-Sleekhat”, West of Amman, “Iraq Al-Amir” where these are two success examples on participatory water management through community action. In these two location, local community are successfully managed their irrigation water according to the farm area, crop type and water requirements. This experience is a good example of participatory irrigation water management according to the local community needs.

Agriculture faces different problems in Jordan including extensive use of chemical (pesticides and fertilizers), water and soil pollution, solid waste pollution and others. These factors affect the agricultural products quality and the sustainable use of natural resources. Agriculture faces other problems like marketing of agricultural products, products competitive with regional and international products. These factors affect also the sustainability of agricultural process.

The need to study the environmental impacts of using low quality water for irrigation and the impacts of agricultural chemicals on soil and plants quality becomes very crucial. Efforts where done by national and international organizations to improve the agricultural practices, management and the agricultural products quality. The need to reduce the negative impacts of agricultural side effects on soil, water, plant and local environment become very necessary. New agricultural technologies where adopted in many countries like the integrated pest management, organic farming and Permaculture. The application of these technologies in Jordan becomes very necessary to improve the agricultural products quality and to ensure the sustainable use of natural resources.


Permaculture or “sustainable agriculture” is a new friendly system of design science established by Professor Bill Molison from Australia who studied the natural system characteristics and established the permaculture system which creates sustainable human settlements protects the environment and improves the quality of agricultural products. Permaculture’s sustainable use of natural resources alleviates poverty and improves local community living conditions permanently. Permaculture depends on the application of specific agricultural patterns and practices which aim for sustainable use of soil, water, plants and animals by design. It is an integrated system for the environmental management of agricultural process, natural resources, local community and environment in one design system package. Permaculture is established based on the integration of local natural system constituents including plants, farm animals and types of natural resource management. It encourages biodiversity, improved agriculture ecosystems, improves soil fertility, depends on local resources and protects the environment. Agricultural products under the permaculture system are free of hazardous chemical and compare with the traditional agriculture products in quality but with more diversity and a higher production. Permaculture design also involves houses, structures, energy systems, waste system, town and city planning and local economics. Permaculture has over 750,000 graduates of the “permaculture design certificate course” world wide and is used in over 400,000 projects in 120 countries.

It is applicable in very small areas, home gardens, large farms, whole catchments and whole geographic regions.

Permaculture practices improve the soils ability to withstand stress conditions like drought, limited use of wastewater or saline water for irrigation, presence of toxic elements in soil systems and others. This is due to soil ecosystem balance by Permaculture practices and its ability to deal with outside factors. Moreover, permaculture techniques are also used to rehabilitate the degraded agricultural systems.

Permaculture aims for the integrated environmental management of water and other natural resources. Agricultural system management under the permaculture system is characterized by low input cost compared with the conventional agriculture. Permaculture is applicable to the needs of poor rural communities where people live in areas that are often more rich in natural biodiversity. It encourages water management, water harvesting, reuse and recycling, conservation and application of best practices for natural resources.

The permaculture project in Jordan is implemented by Nippon International Cooperation for Community Development (NICODD) in cooperation with the Hashemite Fund for Human Development (JOHUD), two non-governmental organizations working for community development in rural areas. NCARTT implement an environmental monitoring program that aims to study the impact of permaculture on the farms, soil, water, plants, animals and natural resources.

2. Objectives:

– To implement a pilot project with an aim to integrated environmental management of natural resources on an area of normally very low agricultural production.

– To implement a pilot project for improving agricultural production quantity and quality and improving livelihood living conditions of local people.

– To study the impacts of Permaculture on the soil, plants and animal production quality, farm system and local environment.

3. Methodology

3.1 Project site:

The site is located in Kafrin area in south of the Jordan valley about 10 Km from the Dead Sea and 6 Km from the Jordanian Palestinian border. The area is nearly flat with just a very slight slope to the West. Rainfall is 100-150 mm/year occurring mainly in 2 or 3 main events during the winter and the area suffers from severe droughts and very low fertility in the soil. The soil suffers from very low organic matter and there is a general absence of natural vegetation cover. The present vegetation of the surrounding area includes only scattered wild plants that are tolerant of high salinity. Table (1) shows selected chemical and physical properties of the soil. The dominant soil texture is fine silt; soil structure is poor as investigated in the field study, which affects soil productivity. Soil salinity is too high, which prevents cultivation of many agricultural crops (98.1 dS/m). Irrigation water is mainly from artesian wells of salinity about 4 dS/m. The area is exposed to frequent strong hot winds which cause erosion with the poor structured soil. According to the Jordan Valley Authority, this land has been categorized as an extremely salty area.

Table (1):Selected chemical and physical properties for soil samples from project site.

Texture pH EC (dS/m) O.M% CaCO3%
0-30 Silty loam 8.2 98.1 0.64 28
30-60 Silty loam 8.29 101.7 0.49 20

3.2 Pilot Farm establishment:

Land area and borders were determined using surveying tools. Farm area is 49 dunum (About 5 Hectares). Topography maps where prepared for the farm to show slope and contour lines. The farm was fenced and supplied with the necessary infrastructure services. An unnatural erosion gully is present running along the outside of the southern boundary of farm from east to west direction caused by road water run off concentration. Rainwater harvesting contour swales were designed and implemented from south to north direction. Swales are water harvesting features created by precise earth works usually exactly on contour. Their form is in the shape of an excavated channel with a soft un-compacted mound on the lower side, they vary in size in relation to the size of land and profile of the landscape and the potential volume of water harvestable. Swale size on the project site is 2-3 m wide of concave rounded shape 1/2m deep channel and 1/2m high mound, two sides and exactly on contour, the swales mainly stretch across the farm from the north boundary to the south boundary from 100m to 250m in length. Eight swales were excavated in total with a combined length of 1.5 kilometers. The first swale established close to the road side of the farm collects most rainfall water from the road run off. Other swales were constructed along the farm in a way to collect the maximum amount of rain water from the farm area itself and some from the erosion gully on the southern boundary in large rain events. (Figure 1).

Each swale is connected to the erosion gully through a concrete pipe of 25-cm diameter. Rain water collected at each cement pipe using a gabion silt trap made of rocks and stones built just down hill from the entrance of each pipe to divert the runoff water through the pipe to the swales during the 2 or 3 large rain events each year. Fine soil particles and organic matter are also collected with the harvested water which improves soil fertility. The end of each swale is connected to the next swale by a over flow spillway to allow for collection of extra water by the lower swale. The swales being on exact contour allows for larger amounts of water storage in soil profile and prevents surface runoff also greatly reducing evaporation.

Figure (1): Layout of the farm shows swale location along the farm.
Layout of the farm shows swale locations

A plastic lined irrigation water storage dam was constructed in the farm and stocked with fish (tilapia). The dam is supplied with a water pump (8.5 hp, 40 m3/h) and filtration unit (sand and screen filter). A drip irrigation system is installed and supplied with viro-jet type drippers of 60 L/h discharge where each tree receives one dripper. The drip systems are covered with soil and plant mulch materials to protect the system from sunlight and reduce irrigation water evaporation. A small concrete raised pond is established on the farm for the geese in their fenced area, water from the pond is circulated to irrigation dam on daily basis to provide liquid nutrients for plants and refilled daily.

3.3 Pilot Farm Planting:

Holes for planting where established on both swale sides and along the full length of each swale. The upper side of each swale is planted with legume forest trees leaucaena, acacia, parkennsonia, prosopis, casuarina, sesbainia sesbans, albizia julibriesens and others all to fix nitrogen to the soil, reduce evaporation through shade and wind shelter. On the lower side of the swales fruit trees are planted. Tree planting commenced on April 1, 2001 and tree spacing is 4 m for most fruits and 8 m for date palm trees. Trees were planted according to the following procedures: The hole was first covered with old cotton cloths and old newspaper then manure and mulch (plant residue material) added then some soil. After this, the tree is placed in the hole and filled with soil until the hole is half full then putting another layer of mulch on until the hole is full then the hole covered with another layer of newspaper and more mulch. After planting the trees were irrigated thoroughly using the drip system making sure more than 1 cubic meter of soil was wet..

Trees included olive, fig, guava, date palm, pomegranate, grape, citrus, carob, mulberry and tuna cactus. Forestry and ornamental plants included first, berconsonia, julifolia, Casuarina equistifolia, Jasmine, Acacias, poplar, eucalyptus, shrubs, ground covers flowers and others. Vegetables crops included tomato, pumpkin, Egyptian cucumber, onion, eggplant, garlic, pepper, rocket, parsley, radish, Jew’s mallow, sesame, and others. Vegetables crops planted between swales as contour rows incorporated with other vegetables and flowers. Some vegetables where planted on the swales for comparison purposes. Barley and alfalfa where planted as legumes and forages for farm animals between swales. Manure added to trees, vegetables and forage crops before plantation and after plantation on regular base (each 7-15 days period) to improve soil fertility.

Irrigation was according to plants needs. Irrigation scheduling done on weekly basis and the amounts of irrigation water where maintained at the minimum amounts needed compared with conventional agriculture even during spring and summer seasons due to the storage of rainwater infiltrated into the soil profile during the winter season. Irrigation records were prepared for the farm to show and organize all irrigation operations. Irrigation source is well water of salinity 3.98 dS/m, table (2) present selected chemical properties for the water.

Plant residue including Banana leaves where used as soil mulching beneath trees and on soil surface. Residues used also to cover all swales to conserve water and prevent stored water from evaporation in addition to improvement of soil physical, chemical and biological properties. Plant residue included Banana leaves, straw, weeds and others.

Animals raised on the farm included chickens, pigeons, turkey, geese, ducks, rabbits plus sheep and a dairy cow once there was enough trees and plants growing that could be harvested for cut forage without over taxing the system.. Animals introduced to achieve plants and animals integration, generate income and to provide manure for different crops. Animal housing was built using local materials like mud, straw, stone and others necessary materials.

Table (2): Selected chemical properties for the well water.

Date EC (dS/m) pH TDS SAR
13/5/2001 3.98 7.76 2547 7.2

3.4 Environmental Monitoring:

An environmental monitoring program where implemented for the farm by NCARTT to assess the impacts of Permaculture practices on the farm and the natural resources. The program included periodic soil, water and plant sampling and analysis. Soil analysis included soluble ions, pH, salinity (EC), organic matter (OM%), texture, CaCO3 and heavy metals. Water analysis included soluble ions, pH and salinity. Plant analysis included Nitrogen (N), phosphorous (P), potassium (K) and heavy metals.

3.5 Plant protection and pest control:

Plant protection depends on implementing agricultural practices to control pest on the farm like crop diversity to prevent fast spread of pests, planting herbs and flowers which attract natural pest enemies, planting repellant plants with the main crops to repel and distract insect attack of crops like, lavender, rosemary, onion and garlic. Planting also crops like Tagets Marigolds (Tagetes erecta) which repel soil nematode. In addition, other practices like irrigation scheduling, disposal of infected plant parts, use of natural materials for plant protection like sulfur and extract of the following plants: Tobacco, onion, garlic, neem, and Schinus molle. In addition farm care and maintenance where done periodically like natural mulch addition, animal and plant care, farm clean up, prepare and use of compost.

3.6 Public awareness, training and local community involvement:

At the beginning of project, the project conducted public awareness activities, mainly in the form of “permaculture design courses” for the local community to raise awareness of the projects concepts, permaculture methods, practices and the role in environment protection. Activities focused on home gardens usually maintained by women as a major target group in addition to farmers to raise their awareness and involve them in the project activities. Public awareness activities introduced also the pilot farm project for the community and explained its purpose. Local community participates actively in the public awareness activities conducted during the project period which focus on permaculture, environment conservation and other issues. About 100 participants (50 male, 50 female) participated in the public awareness activities and “permaculture design courses”. These activities where recognized as first project stage activities.

After this stage, the project conducted a practical training program for women groups to train them on Permaculture methods, tools, practices, rainfall harvesting techniques, plantation, soil conservation and management, safe plant protection, agricultural patterning, organic farming, composting, natural system characteristics, environment protection, small project management, and others. These training sessions where recognized as crucial to give women groups the necessary skill for implementing Permaculture projects. Training sessions where delivered by international Permaculture experts and other national experts. About 30 participants from local community got specialized training during the project period.

The Permaculture project established a local committee from interested local community groups who follow up awareness and training activities in addition to local stakeholder members (Ministry of Planning, Ministry of Agriculture, Ministry of Health, Ministry of interior and others). The committee where ten members was to aim to enhance community participation in the project implementation, hence to encourage them to play a vital role in the project implementation process, follow up project activities, farm progress and other activities. The committee held regular monthly meeting to follow up project activities.

A revolving fund project which aimS to provide loans to local community members to implement small income generating permaculture projects at their household garden. Activities include animal raising, tree planting, permaculture practices and others. The project established also a revolving fund committee (4 members) from the project parties (donor, JOHUD and representative from local community (2)) to make decision for loan programs. The committee prepared a by-law for the revolving fund project. The committee was responsible to study, screen and make decision for loans application from local clients. It held regular meeting and based on application to take decision.

As part of the community involvement, participants from local community, especially women, participate in the application of Permaculture practices in the pilot farm. They follow up farm design, establishment, rainfall harvesting system construction, tree planting and farm daily routine works. They follow up also the progress of the farm. The impact of public awareness and training activities and adoption of new techniques by local community was evaluated during project period.

4. Results and discussion

4.1 Plant growth under Permaculture practices:

4.1.1 Fruit and forest trees:

After two years of monitoring the farm, the following plants showed a good growth and yield on the farm: Olive, fog, date palm, guava, tuna cactus, pomegranate, compared with other plants. For forest and ornamental plants the following plants showed a good growth too leaucaena: Albizia, berconsonia, Casuarina, Acacias, Porsopis julifolia, shinos moll, Jasmine, eucalyptus and polar. The percentage of success exceeded 90%, while grape and Jujube success where 60% & 50% respectively.

Pomegranate and fig showed more intensive growth compare with other crops on the farm, although the local community did not advice planting both of them due to the salt conditions of soils in the area. The application of permaculture design and planting inside the swales with heavy mulch use has a great impact on the success of crops in the farm. Legume forest trees incorporated in swales have a positive impact on fruit trees growth while other fruit trees cultivated outside swales shows less growth. Legume trees improve soil fertility and reduce direct sunlight on fruit trees and reduces wind stress which resulted positively on fruit trees growth.

4.1.2 Vegetable crops:

Most vegetable crops showed a great success under permaculture system. Eggplant, tomato, onion, garlic and Jew’s mallow showed very good growth and yield while pepper and pumpkin showed less growth due to infection with spider mite, shading from trees and also the date of pumpkin planting was too late. Rocket, parsley and radish showed also a great success under permaculture practices. Plant care and sound agricultural practices have a great role in improving plant growth.

4.1.3 Forages:

Barley and alfalfa planted on the farm both crops planted to improve soil physical properties and to provide food for animals on the farm. They showed a good growth despite the high soil salinity. Alfalfa is harvested periodically to feed animals while barley is harvested at the end of the winter season. Table (3) shows yield of some crops on the farm. The yield is close to the yield of similar crops under conventional agriculture as practiced by neighboring local farmers. For example, barley yield is about 180 Kg/dunum, where for the project is about 200 Kg/dunum.

Table (3): Yield of selected crops in the farm.

Crop Yield (Kg) Area (m2) Yield (Ton/hectare) Season
Onion 400 300 13.3 2001
Eggplant 2000 2000 10 2003
Radish 50 100 5 2002
Tomato 500 1500 3.3 2003
Sesame 50 2000 0.3 2002
Barley 2000 10000 2 2002
Jew’s mallow 100 1000 1 2001

Table (4) shows salt tolerance for selected crops according FAO guideline. According to the table the appropriate soil salinity for tomato is 1-4 dS/m while soil salinity between the swales is much higher and tomato shows a good growth and yield.

Table (4): Salt tolerance for selected crops according to FAO.

Crop Salt Tolerance, ECe, dS/m
Artichoke (tuber), common bean, carrot, onion (bulb), strawberry, lemon Less than 1 (= sensitive)
Corn, peanut, sugarcane, alfalfa, broad bean, clover, cowpea, broccoli, cabbage, celery, cucumber, eggplant, garlic, lettuce, muskmelon, pea, pepper, potato, radish, spinach, sweet potato, tomato, plum 1 to 4 (= moderately sensitive)
Barley, rapeseed, cotton, kenaf, rye, sorghum, soybean, sunflower, wheat, artichoke (bud), zucchini, date, guava More than 4

Modified from FAO (2002): Annex 1 Crop Salt Tolerant Data, FAO Irrigation and Drainage Paper 61, Agricultural Drainage Water Management in Arid and Semi-Arid Areas.

4.2 Water use efficiency:

Table (5) shows sample of crop irrigation water consumption in the farm. The amount of irrigation water estimated based on discharge rate and the estimated time of irrigating target crops. Table (3) & (5) show that onion yield is 13.3 ton/ha and the estimated water consumption is 254 m3/ha/season. The water use efficiency is 7.59 Kg/m3. Barley yield is 2 ton/ha and the estimated water consumption is 179 m3/ha/season and the estimated water use efficiency is 17.98 kg/m3. These values are recognized high as compare to conventional agriculture since much less irrigation water was applied under the permaculture design system.

Table (5): Sample if irrigation consumption in the farm.

Sample irrigation consumption in the farm

The evidence of minimum water use efficiency and water conservation is supported by the field observation from the farm. Irrigation water stopped on the farm during August, which is the warmest month in the area while no adverse effects or stress noticed on the plants and trees. This support the hypotheses that permaculture design practices have a great role in reducing water needs during summer on the farm. Permaculture practices reduce water needs due to water harvesting and storage by swales, shading of fruits trees and vegetables by legume trees and use of plant residue as natural mulching for soil insulation and humus creation. In addition, some crops were planted to act as living mulches like portolaca, sweet potato and planted throughout fruit trees systems. The reuse of wastewater from the goose pool and the use of drip irrigation contribute greatly to increase of water conservation on the farm. As mention before, irrigation scheduling was once per week while for the conventional farms in the same area is twice per week. The percentage of water saving is estimated about 40%.

4.3 Impacts of permaculture on soil properties and plant properties:

4.3.1 Irrigation Water Infiltration:

Table (6) shows selected soil properties before cultivation and after one year of establishment. The soil has at the beginning low water infiltration due to high silt content and high SAR value as investigated from great surface runoff during winter before the project. Water infiltration in soil increased as evident from field observation where no water stayed on soil surface during irrigation. Table (6) shows also reduction in SAR value for soil extract after one year of establishment which means less effect of Na on soil structure. The increase in water filtration is due also to the use of natural mulching and planting of barley and alfalfa which improve soil physical properties. In addition, the zero tillage practice, which was maintained during the year, resulted also in improving soil structure.

4.3.2 Soil salinity:

Soil salinity in swales reduced as compared to the beginning of the farm. Table (6) shows a big reduction in soil salinity before and after one year due to the application of permaculture design practices although the farm depends on saline water of about 4 dS/m salinity for irrigation. Swales established in the farms resulted in collection and storage of rain water which leached the salts from the soil. The use of natural mulching prevents water evaporation and prevents salts accumulation on soil surface. It also work as a buffer to reduce the long time effects for salts on soil and plant.

Table (6): Selected soil properties before plantation and after one year.

Selected soil properties before plantation and after one year

4.3.3 Soil fertility, organic matter content (OM) and soil pH:

Table (6) shows increase in soil OM content compared to soil content at the beginning. The use of natural mulching from plant residue and composting of animal manure was a continuous practice which resulted in increasing the organic matter content of the soil. Natural mulching improves also soil ecosystem, increase number and type of soil organisms and improves soil microbiology growth. In addition, legume crops and trees resulted also in increasing N-content and improving soil fertility. The reuse of waste water from goose pool enriched the irrigation water pool and soil with many nutrients like N and P.

The use of natural mulching resulted in a decrease of soil pH although the soils in the area are normally very alkaline. This is due to the decomposition of plant residues and production of humic acid as a by product of decomposition which decrease soil pH (Table 6).

4.3.4 Plant tissue content:

Table (7) shows selected analysis for some plants from the farm. The results show very low content of heavy metals especially cadmium and lead where these metals are usually present in crops grown by farmers using chemical fertilizers especially cadmium. This reflects the role of permaculture in improving soil and plant quality. The content of plant nutrients (NPK) is within the average content which reflects the availability of plant nutrients in soil system.

Table (7): Analysis of selected plant samples from the farm.

Analysis of selected plant samples from the farm

4.4 Impacts of Permaculture on biodiversity conservation and farm local environment:

The project idea depends on cultivation of native plants from the project area plus the diversity of crops in farm including fruit trees, legumes trees, legume crops, vegetables, ornamentals, forages and others. The farm now has a large diversity of native birds, reptiles and small mammals. Many local species of plants like halophytes, weeds, flowers and others, which were not present at the beginning of the farm, now grow on the farm due to protecting the farm and diversity of crops under permaculture design practices.

The soil ecosystem has also greatly improved due to permaculture practices. Permaculture creates a good local environment for rehabilitation soil organisms. The soil under the mulch is enriched with many microorganisms which make the soil alive and improve the soil ecosystem.

Plants in swale, especially legume forest trees, resulted in many advantages to the farm. Reducing wind speeds on the farm, creates local micro-climate appropriate for other plants like vegetables. As a result, the local conditions in the farm improved. In addition, the permaculture practices like no chemicals use and soil improvement resulted also in improving the farm environment, natural resources conservation and agricultural products quality.

Farm animals complete the integrated system creating important links between soil, plants, animal and back to soil in a natural cycle functioning as an ecosystem. Chicken scratch the soil continuously, eats insects and adds manure to the soil. Pigeon eat insects especially flies and harvest seeds from the larger environment outside the farm and bringing in high quality nutrient in the form of manure.. Green plants cover most of the farm area. The integration of plants and animal on the farm resulted in natural ecosystem of self dependence and the integration of farm inputs and outputs. The farm presents a pilot model for the sustainable management of natural and agricultural resources.

4.5 Effects of Permaculture on insects and diseases propagation:

An ecosystem type of balance is presents on the farm. Insects and their predators are presents on the farm at the same time as investigated in field studies, for example aphid area present but so are their many predators so they are continuously kept in check. During the project period, no serious infection has happened on the farm except spider mite infection which was controlled using natural sulfur. The diversity of crops, trees, weeds, legumes, permaculture practices, plants and animal integration, all these factors encourage the environmental balance in the farm.

4.6 Effects of Permaculture on environment and local community:

Permaculture is a new concept to be implemented in the area. Its impact on the environment and local community was very apparent. The project area is famous with monoculture practice where farmers cultivate one crop type and use extensive amounts of fertilizers and pesticides which results in negative impacts on their health and local environment. The application of permaculture concepts and production of organic products was very well accepted and understood by the local community.

The local community has shown great interest to follow up project activities and training sessions. Handouts and technical information were given to participants to provide them with the necessary information. Local community, primarily women, used to do regular visits to the pilot farm to follow up farm progress and notice the impact of permaculture on the progress of the farm. The impacts of training activities were very clear on participants. Participant gained new skills and practices in farm agricultural management which is very important for the sustainable use of natural resources. Participant found out the opportunities for other water resources especially rainfall harvesting practices, grey water re-cycling and its utilization and realized the importance of local natural resources. The meetings held by local committee resulted in a positive impact on community involvement the project activities.

Women groups who were trained on permaculture practices implemented similar projects in their own home gardens. The project trained 30 women and men from the community, 15 of them implemented permaculture projects at their household garden. Most household permaculture projects where implemented by women’s. The project gives technical assistance and loans for them to implement the permaculture activities. The results were very interesting that the local community now realizes the importance of permaculture and its impacts on their health issues.

In addition, the revolving fund project has a great impact in helping local community to implement permaculture practices in their household gardens. The project donates 140 revolving loans for local community members (male and female) to implement agricultural and commercial small businesses and 100 loans used for agricultural and permaculture projects.

The project played a role in diversity of production patterns for plants and animal which improve products marketing and increase the return from the farm. The project lunched a revolving fund to help local community to implement small agricultural projects focus on permaculture. These activities aim to generate income and improve families living conditions.

After 3 years of completion the project, the farm is standing with abundant green cover. Permaculture ecosystems are well established on the farm and looking very long term. The farm is cultivated now with different productive crops and used to generate income for local the community. At household level, different crops are cultivated also to provide supplement food for the families. Families have stopped using chemicals for plant protection or fertilizers for soil improvement and now they depends on safe methods and materials for plant protection and organic manure, compost and plant residue for soil improvements.

5. Conclusion

The results show that application of permaculture methods and introducing permaculture techniques like swales, natural mulching, rainfall harvesting, legume cultivation, have a clear role in improving soil properties, increasing soil organic matter content and reducing soil salinity. The farm produced fruits and vegetables free of chemicals and safe for human consumption.

The farm represents a pilot model for sustainable management of natural resources especially soil, water and plants under extreme drought and salinity conditions. The local community have adopted the project and implemented permaculture practices in their household gardens.

It is important to give attention to local natural resources like native plants, local plant varieties, agricultural wastes, recycling and local community experience to deal with farm problems and implement the permaculture practices.

Local community played a crucial role in succession the project. They learnt and adapted new practices for water, soil and natural resources management as well as agricultural production..

6. Recommendations:

– To implement technology transfer activities for permaculture on national and regional levels to help alleviate soil, water and agriculture problems.

– To implement researches to study the impact of permaculture on natural resources, biodiversity and sustainability of agricultural production.

– To study the applicability of permaculture for different climatic zones in Jordan.

7. References:

– Bill Mollison. Introduction to Permaculture. Tagari publications. 1998.

– Bill Mollison. Permaculture: A Designers’ Manual. Tagari publications. 1998.

– Bill Molison. Introduction to Permaculture (Translated to Arabic). Dar Allla’, Syria. 2002.

– Department of statistics. Annual reports. 2002

– FAO. Crop Salt Tolerant Data, FAO Irrigation and Drainage Paper 61, Agricultural Drainage Water Management in Arid and Semi-Arid Areas. Annex 1, Modified from FAO (2002).

– Geoff Lawton. 2003. Miscellaneous references and training materials from The Permaculture Research Institute. Australia.

– Geoflf Lawton. Training materials on Permaculture delivered in Amman, 2003 (not published).

– George Sovol. Weeds and what they Tell’ – Ehrenfried E.Pfeiffer. 1993

– Ministry of Agriculture. Jordan National Strategy for Agricultural Development. 2002.

– Ministry of environment. National biodiversity strategy. 2004.

Use of Permaculture (Sustainable Agriculture) Techniques for the Integrated Water Resources Management Under Salinity and drought Conditions

Mohammed Ayesh (MSc in Soil & Irrigation), Water & Environment Researcher.
National Center for Agricultural Research & Technology Transfer, Jordan- Amman
P.O.Box 23384, Amman 11115, Jordan

Mobile:00962-777-228957, Office: 00962-5-3573003, Email: [email protected]


  1. Dear PRI,

    pardon my ignorance on this issue, but in table 6 what does EC (dS/m), SAR and OM% stand for,

    Many Thanks,

  2. EC = Electrical Conductivity (in deci-Siemens per meter:
    EC=1 means that a “water wire” of cross-section 1 cm and length 1 cm has a resistivity of

    R = 1/S = 1/(S_spec * A / L) = 1/(0.1 1/(Ohm m) * (0.01m)^2 / 0.01m) = 1 kilo-Ohm.

    EC=2 would hence correspond to a resistivity of 0.5 kOhm for
    the same “water wire”. This basically is a simple measure of the concentration of electrically charged ions in water, hence salinity.

    OM% = Organic Matter Content, in Per-Cent

    SAR = Sodium Absorption Ratio, that’s a standard measure of sodicity. The definition is related to the law of mass action. You can think of it as the quotient of the sodium concentration and the square root of the alkaline earth metal concentration.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Related Articles

Back to top button