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Greening the Desert

This is just one example of how permaculture can transform the environment, and, in so doing, dramatically change lives. By evidencing the dramatic transformation possible in the world’s worst agricultural scenarios, we hope to make people stand up and listen.

Greening the Desert – the original. Duration: 5 minutes

Also watch Greening the Desert II: Greening the Middle East

Big Agribusiness would convince us that continuing with fossil fuel dependent monocrop systems and genetically modified crops is the way of the future, but with fuel, transport and fertiliser costs skyrocketing, and growing evidence that genetic tinkering is causing far more harm than good, we, instead, advocate tried and tested methods of working with nature for the benefit of man.

Update: Watch Greening the Desert II: Greening the Middle East, where you’ll learn about the current state of the original Greening the Desert site, and learn more about the work in Jordan and the new PRI project site there.

The Permaculture Research Insitute

PRI Zaytuna Farm functions as a model farm (in development) and permaculture training facility. Geoff and Nadia Lawton, world-renowned permaculture educators and consultants, lead the project. Much of Geoff and Nadia’s time over the last few years has been spent away from the Institute, consulting and helping set up projects in diverse locales around the world. Seeing the worldwide demand for knowledgeable permaculture consultants and teachers increase exponentially, as fuel and fertiliser prices skyrocket and the effects of climate change, soil depletion and water shortages begin to hit hard, priority and focus is now shifting back to the Institute, where growing the training program will increase the output of quality teachers to help fill the growing need for them.


  1. I have been posting extensively on the manufacture of soils by applying biochar culture on my Blog:


    Been able to move abruptly to deep rooted trees and palms is an unexpected development. I had anticipated that a long restoration program would be necessary and saw the use of biochar as a nutrient management system that also possibly controlled the salinity.

    Is it possible that salinity is grossly overestimated because of wicking effects? We have perfectly usable nutrient rich soils that merely need a competent water system.



  2. Inspirational to say the least.

    In the US the government declared, in 1877, that certain states with desert lands must distribute up to 640 acres per person or group for the purpose of reclaiming the desert. Several states were enlisted into this program and must distribute 1 million acres per state. Most of the people simply made watering holes and kept livestock or farmed it for a short period of time until they could prove they properly irrigated it then sold the land. It’s disgusting but so many entrepreneurs have cheated the system so far. Corporations had to be excluded because of it.

    At any rate if it can work in Jordan it could Work in Arizona or Nevada and the land, if you prove you can irrigate it and reclaim at least 1/8th of it in 4 years time, can be purchased for $1.25 per acre up to 320 acres. The downfall is you have to jump through some hoops to find the right piece of land. With permaculture I think that this could be very beneficial for the land and very profitable for the farmer.

    Co-op’s, especially, can benefit from this and in Nevada you don’t have to be a resident to claim land via the Desert Land Act.

  3. Brother Robert
    Would Love To Get More Education About Your Epic Share About The Desert Land Act. Is there any way way in which my co-op and i can contact you directely for more guidance.

  4. Seems to me that the results were mainly due to the mountain of organic materials that were free on-site. Dump that much organic stuff on a concrete parking lot and you could grow about anything on it. Swales were necessary for water though, so good job there.

  5. More power to you!!! I believe I have heard about your project previously as I am keenly interested in permaculture. It was great watching the clip on youtube.

    We can totally do this! Thank you so much!

  6. Thanks for the Inspiration, Permaculture is full force, This is more proof that we have all the tools to repaire our earth.
    Combined with people who care enough to act means my new born son has hope for his future, for this i thank you all for eternity.

    May permaculture be illuminated for all to see!
    I’m off to do a design course so my little one will grow up as part of the sollution


  7. why can’t i see pictures of it working. All i hear is how good it is but no pictures or film. Anyone can tell a story, where is the proof?

  8. also why do you need to rely on students for the farm to pay, surely if the farm was truly self sufficient then income from students would not be needed. You do not seem to be promoting food production but a college.

  9. In a world where so many things are done with money – it is understandable for him to need it to achieve goals beyond self-reliant living (shelter, water, food) – like flying around the world, running websites and different methods of passing the knowledge and experience around. Even some extra money for costly infrastructure that may be needed at first, and then works by itself pretty well. Permaculture is not about detaching yourself from the world – it is about advancing the current state of the world.

  10. Hello, this project sounds great. I am interested in finding out about any long term, independent studies that have been done of this project. Does anyone know of any? Are there other projects like this with associated studies. We would like to pursue funding for a similar project in some areas of Southeast Asia (Islands), but the bar is pretty high regarding data. Any help on this would be appreciated.



  11. Good Week! I wish to contact the researchers who did the work on litter spreading. please contact me through this mail. Do you have a article on this topic?
    Best Regards!

  12. I wonder if anyone could pinpoint the exact location in “GPS” coordinates so we could trace this project from Google Earth?

    Thanks very much to everyone

  13. “Seems to me that the results were mainly due to the mountain of organic materials that were free on-site. Dump that much organic stuff on a concrete parking lot and you could grow about anything on it. Swales were necessary for water though, so good job there.”

    You only need mulch during the beginning. The nitrogen fixing “mulch trees” are pruned during wetter periods for mulch. This causes their roots to self prune releasing nitrogen fixing bacteria. Fruit trees also provide mulch in the form of fallen leaves, branches, etc.

  14. First thank you all for the good work.
    My question is if this video on youtube with arabic subtitles?
    I hope this has already been done, but i cannot find it on the internet (maybe becourse i do not speak arabic).

    Mikkel Ottersen

  15. Ive just read some articles related to Permaculture and being an advocate of sustainable agriculture and an organic farmer practicioner in our community its more interesting to study the concepts and principles of Permaculture by theory and practice and its significance with our present agricultural practices.

    I understand that there are Permaculture Design Courses offered by your institution, Well it be possible that a simple farmer in a tropical country in Asia like the Philippines be allowed to participate on your training programs. Im interested to attend such courses so that I may be able to share these knowledge and skills to my fellow farmers in our country.

    Thank you and more power


  16. Does anyone know what kind of mushrooms were growing in that mulch. If its true that noone had ever seen them before in that area, it would be interesting to know what kind they were and perhaps how old the spores were, or where they travelled from.

  17. Desert greening projects appear small scale,labour intensive and unsustainable. Is aerial seeding of larger sections of desert during high rainfall events practical?

  18. The damage done by a 100 years or more of media manipulation is going to play a major factor when it comes to trying to get people to move in a unified direction. Many people still think man made climate change is a con, because they are in denial over changing their lifestyle, a lifestyle that their forebares have fought and died trying to provide.
    In my area of N Wales there is little farming left, i’m 40 and can just remember the cows walking thru the village to be milked, in my parents day their was still the community ethic of the local miners(majority of population) helping the local farms at the busiest times of year.
    Now what’s left of the farming land hasn’t been worked for years, satellite migration of retiring, mostly middle class “townies” along with the settled families moving away to find work (because of the mine closure in the ’80s) has changed the fabric of the community, this combined with the centralisation of food and service provision and the rapid technological change of society has it could be said left that fabric in tatters.

    It’s great to think of the exposure permaculture is starting to get, i’ve joined a local CSA and we are starting on a forest garden. I think many locals see it as something for others to do, rather than themselves. Can’t blame them really, the local church has given over use of some scrub land to start the CSA, while a mile away acres of easily adaptable mature deciduous forest lie dormant and unused, the old playgrounds of my youth and my forebares youth, the battlefields of inumerous poachers dead and gone and a place which once sparked much debate over the generations due to the tactics used by the local gentry to “acquire it”.
    Now it’s paths lie overgrown and disused despite thousands in grants a decade ago, the children play there no more, the dangers of life have lost out to the alure of pleasure island and the mind bombs have been planted.
    I guess when the ratio of affluent middle class retirees increases, something may change, we will get subsidised wood carvings and sunday strolls that will effervesce with the self righteous satisfaction befitting of the great victorian explorers.

    To think that Cameron and the economic and political elite are going to lead this country at the “forefront” of the green revolution….We had far better sustainability here in even the eighties than now, when they closed the mine did they provide retraining in local green industries, the technology and the calls for its implementation were there, no they invested abroad, they exported their greed and our pollution, on the back of international developement, where they destroyed even more sustainable communities, now they pat themselves on the back for adopting “green” sensibilities, i wonder if they realise what’s going to happen to their souls, of course they could come clean and open, bare their burdens to those they have failed and stand equal in the line of those who live in the real world…oops slipping off into dream world again

    Anyway good luck to those who care i say, may the great spirits watch over you and your fires warm the cold places in this world.

  19. Thanks Geoff, you are an inspiration to many!

    Thank you for not letting Bills work go to waste!

    This truly is the future, if there is going to be one at all, first all that centralization and now all the decentralization is where its at. We are all going to have to grow our own food, produce our own electricity etc etc.

    The old way is dying….

  20. To anyone and everyone,

    Is anyone able to tell me when this project ran? A year is more than specific enough.

    Thankyou in advance to anyone able to answer.

    Thankyou and regards,

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