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Greening the Desert II – Final

The Greening the Desert II video I shared with you recently was edited in Jordan. Now that I’m back at my desk again I’ve had time to edit it slightly. I’ve added the original five-minute Greening the Desert clip in to the front of it, to ensure viewers have context for Part II (and we’ve also had requests for both to be made available together), as well as cut a few minutes out of Part II to keep it flowing a little better. You can not only watch online below and embed on your own websites (click for embed code at top right of video screen), but it’s also available for download, so those who’d like to have a ‘hard copy’ to circulate are welcome to download, burn to disk or transfer to USB key, etc., and circulate freely.

Download: You’ll see the option to download the 913 megabyte MP4 file at bottom right side of this page.

Greening the Desert II (including Part I) – Greening the Middle East
(Duration: 36 mins)
Tips for playing: If it’s slow to load, turn off High Definition (HD) on the player.
If you still have problems, click play (on low or high def) and then after it’s started,
click on pause. The video will then continue to buffer into your computer.
Play once fully loaded.

I would like to take the opportunity to thank Kelly Kellogg at this juncture. Kelly donated initial funding that enabled the purchase of the land for the Jordan Valley Permaculture Project site (aka ‘Greening the Desert – the Sequel’). But, upon watching the Greening the Desert Part II video, Kelly was inspired to donate an additional $20,000. These gifts are very encouraging to us as we try to solve problems at source (teach a man to fish…). Others who may feel inspired to donate to help us move this work forward faster can do so here.

A little background on the video follows:

Children in a school playground, Al Jawfa, Jordan Valley

When there’s no soil, no water, no shade, and where the sun beats down on you to the tune of over 50°C (122°F), the word ‘poverty’ begins to take on a whole new meaning. It is distinct and surreal. It’s a land of dust, flies, intense heat and almost complete dependency on supply lines outside of ones control. This is the remains of what was once called the ‘fertile crescent’. It is the result of thousands of years of abuse. It is a glimpse at a world where the environment – whose services provide for all human need – has all but completely abandoned us. This is a glimpse at the world our consumer society is inexorably moving towards, as our exponential-growth culture gorges itself at ever-increasing rates.

The original Greening the Desert video clip has been watched hundreds of thousands of times and has been posted to countless blogs and web pages in the datasphere. Although only five minutes long, it has inspired people around the globe, daring the lucid ones amongst us, those who can see the writing on the wall, to begin to hope and believe in an abundant future – a future where our survival doesn’t have to be based on undermining and depleting the very resources of soil, water, phosphorus, etc. that we depend on. The work profiled in that clip demonstrates that humanity can be a positive element within the biosphere. Man doesn’t have to destroy. Man can repair.

In the clip at top I introduce you today to Greening the Desert II. I shot the footage for this video last month (October 2009) and edited it on location in the Dead Sea Valley in Jordan – the lowest place on earth, at 400 metres below sea level. Much of it was shot in or near the village of Al Jawfa where I stayed, which is effectively a Palestinian refugee camp that has morphed over the decades since 1948 into something resembling a functional small town. It was first shown to delegates of the ninth International Permaculture Conference (IPC9) in Malawi, Africa at the very beginning of November and is now being released for general consumption. The video will take you to the original Greening the Desert site, letting you see its present condition after six years of neglect when funding ran out in 2003. You’ll also be introduced to our new project site – the Jordan Valley Permaculture Project, aka ‘Greening the Desert, the Sequel’ – and see some of the spin-off effects within Jordan from the influence of the original site; promises of much more to come.

The work we’re undertaking in Jordan is in accordance with what we call the ‘Permaculture Master Plan‘, where the project’s future is assured through funding from running educational courses. Project sites thus become self-sufficient, and self-replicating.

Geoff Lawton instructs students in a school yard in Jordan, one that PRI has
just created and begun the implementation of a design for, so its
many children can see, experience and learn permaculture first hand

Through this work we envision thousands of educational demonstration sites worldwide – all inspiring and teaching communities around them how to begin to tackle at root the massive challenges we now face after decades of short-term profit-based thinking has all but ‘consumed’ our planet and dismantled the social constructs that the human race has always depended on for its survival. Through this work we see desertification stopped in its tracks, and reversed. We see this century’s dire water issues getting resolved. We see productive work for millions in bypassing the irrelevant efforts of our ‘leaders’, to instead build a new kind of culture – a culture based on cooperative effort and learning. It’s a culture where its members have regained a sense of their place in creation, where they become land-based stewards of remaining resources; creating a culture where we at last find ultimate satisfaction – promoting and building peace and low-carbon, relocalised, community-based prosperity.

We have many such ‘Master Plan’ projects in various stages of development worldwide, and a steady stream of enquiries from people around the globe wanting to get involved and help widen this cooperative network. Perhaps it’s time you took a look at Permaculture? After all, do you have something more worthwhile to do?

Jordan Valley


  1. A couple of things in the video sort of stuck out for me.

    I forgot his name, but the guy that mentioned how evaporation is 4 times greater than rain fall so the swales must be heavily mulched.

    The other thing was how the caretakers of the first greening the desert site reverted to burning the organic matter rather than using it as mulch or composting it. We can sit back and condemn them for burning what we all know is a valuable resource, but the same thing happens all over Australia and other “advanced countries” because thats what people know.

    These guys need to have available a commercial mulcher to process their green waste. A 13hp chipper for them to share or hire would be a start for not much money, but a flail type shredder produces a far superior mulch and is more versatile, although more expensive. The accumulation of biomass can be sped up considerably when organic wastes from plants can be processed into usable mulches or broken up to be composted quickly. This saves water and accelerates the creation of more biomass. Has it been looked into as an option in Jordan?

  2. Hi Glen
    yes we have a large flail type shredder on site, but is more the need for a desire for a truly sustainable result by local NGO’s, hence our move into our own design of the “Permaculture Master Plan” sustainable aid theming.

  3. Keep up the good work everybody.

    i got thinking about something regarding the Greening the Desert Project. Given that the Site is at a hydrologically advantageous low point in the landscape – once you’ve done the initial work to establish the system, plants and roots in the soil, the water table is so close that even if you had no rain, the system can thrive to some extent as long as the water levels water table are maintained.

    There must be many sites where the situation seems hopeless, and yet the water table is only a matter of feet or metres beneath the surface ready to supply and sustain any permaculture system given suitable time, resources and permaculture (action). For example, in many places around the West Australian wheat-belt we are all told there is a salinity problem or excess of salt. The real problem seems to be just a lack of suitable vegetation and Eco-Logical or Permaculture systems or rather, the lack of suitable intelligence and application of it.

    Many of our Agricultural, Mining and Forestry Praxis are destroying our ecological, social and economic systems and the natural bases upon which we rely. Our own sense of what is natural, harmonious and truly wondrous is slowly being eroded away and replaced by things of steel, concrete and convenience.

    This loss of sensibility in my mind is one of the greatest tragedies of all.

  4. Listening to this video has trully inspired me and I now feel complelled to join the permacultrue idea. It really brings hope and a glim of light at the end of our devastating western cultural hole. Being only 16 it helps alote to know there is a solution and not just a plethora of problems to sigh at.

  5. What I like best about all this is the Master Plan.

    Well, no, what I like best is the ecological farming idea, of course, but that’s kind of obvious.

    But the Master Plan… compared to, say, Monsanto, it’s like Linux vs Windows. And I’m a big fan of open source :).

  6. This is such a powerful project. I am passing all of my Permaculture knowledge on to my 21-year-old cousin who has just entered the Masters Program in Horticulture at the University of Arkansas in the United States. Also, he will be seeing all of my DVDs over time, whenever he seems open to more new ideas. My plan is to gradually include some of his classmates and professors.
    Thank you for sharing this information.

  7. To Geoff and Nadia
    Wow this is awesome! It makes my heart sing to know that there are angels like you walking the Earth and empowering people to make a difference.
    How amazing will it be to see our beautiful planet return to being a magnificent garden producing a truly vibrant way of life for all. To see thousands of people touch the Earth with love and create a future that we will look forward to with great anticipation. I so look forward to a time in the future when I can study with you to broaden my understanding of the principles of Permaculture and participate in the inspiring work that you are doing.
    To all who are now contributing to this amazing project(dream)…thank you… you are truly inspiring. Together we can make an everlasting difference.

  8. Geoff, great video – you will be interested to know that I was able to achieve the same results in the Sudan ( El Obeid) in ’69-’73. And then again in the Irbid Moffasat in Jordan in 75 – 77 when we doubled Jordan’s wheat yields in cooperation with the JCO and Dr Dawery, Jordan University. I was the one that started the vetiver system in the Pacific and it was so frustrating that I could not get vetiver for our Jordan project. With what you are doing vetiver hedges are the answer to maintaining fertility and conserving moisture, they build their own terraces etc. just take a walk through our website – we are a philanthropic organisation. I would appreciate having a ‘dialogue’ with you on a system of “Curvalinear farming” I have developed but am now too old now to develope in the desert – but it will work.

    best of luck

  9. Hey
    To the mulcher/burner discussioners,
    why not incorporate a mycological treatment or edible mushroom segment into the mulching process? That way you neednt use a chipper and you would be gaining an extra yield of food provision per cycle.
    Buddha Love

  10. Geoff, great video, great method.
    In case You want to use additional information, in case You work with NGOs, some water at the start of Your activities (at the next place) would help ?! Possibly You have seen the websites and , there it is explained and has been practised how to get large amounts of water from clouds naturally(no chemicals, no imbalance). The experts (in heavenly acupuncture) practised it since 1950. Also in ..Eritrea, Namibia.. In Algeria Mr. Abdellaziz worked from 2005 to 2008 and the ground water level rose more than 60m , the area where rainfall improved since then has a radius of 500km . On the website You can see photographs: wild plants are growing (and bio agriculture is developed based on penergetic).
    The idea is : some water at the start of Your activities (at the next place) would help ?! Would be a great idea if collaboration would be possible for the Best of the dry areas in Arabia. Lots of trees are needed to stabilise the weather, all tree levels combined with gardens.

  11. Hi, interested in doing this in Australia. What was the cost for the 10acres? What do you expect the cost would be for 100 acres, 1000 acres, here? Please email me.

  12. How about incorporating lots of biochar ? This should help the soil retain moisture. Granted, traditional mulch and compost can do that too. But biochar may have additional benefits, so it’s worth a try.
    Rasmus (co-founder, Biochar Ontario)

  13. I watched parts of this great video again. The more I look at that grey-whitish soil, the more I hear it scream “give me some biochar” ! Amending the soil with biochar could be one of the very first steps in preparing a site. Access to suitable biomass does not seem to be a problem in the drylands.

  14. Make mighty power of nature an ally
    In the northwestern Australia, we have huge tides,
    huge evaporation and huge dry rivers and lakes.
    Tides are up to 12m. Evaporation is up to 4m per year and can be increased.
    Huge 12m tidal erosion can revive old dry paleo dormant once mighty rivers, creeks and lakes,
    desalinate the country and change deserts to rain forests to provide more rain across Australia.
    World population is growing rapidly and we need more energy, food, land and water.

    this will change deserts and whole continent for better climate
    environment, provide hydro energy, permanently

  15. Results seem to be small scale and sustainability lacks credibility. My pet vision is the seeding of areas of desert land during high rainfall events.

  16. Hi Andrew
    Geoff Lawton here teaching in Istanbul with Bill Mollison, I am with you all the way with large scale sustainable desert area regeneration with credibility.
    We are now working on 700 square kilometers of Saudi Arabian desert landscape in the governance of Mecca near Jeddah. Stay tuned in on RSS as we keep posting on this one. We will be seeding areas during large rain events and using water harvesting infiltration techniques plus FMNR check out and check out

    Please let us know your experience and discoveries on the ground with credible large scale sustainable seeding of desert areas during high rain events.

    We would love to show case them on this site to help people achieve good results and improve their lives.

    Keep up the good work the deserts of the world need our help.


  17. I’m thrilled and excited to see such work going on in the parts of the world that need rebuilding. It gives me hope for sustaining life in the Middle East. So many refugees and so little water. But now there is more hope for the people there to feed themselves, sustain their lives, living a more fulfilling existence and not have to wait for aid. I would like to use some of those techniques in our mismanaged areas that were used for agri-business, monocropping of sugar cane and pineapple. The pineapple left much of the soil depleted of nutrients. It has been greater than 20 yrs since they left so much of the land was left fallow. Agriculture is just now beginning to start up since the soils have “come back”. Too bad this was not around to teach to the farmers 20 yrs ago on Molokai to give them a headstart on reclaiming the pineapple lands. I would love to learn this technique and use it in my mother’s garden on the dry side of the island on Oahu.
    Problem with mulching is that it attracts scorpions and centipedes in Hawaii. How do you deal with that? Last time a centipede bit my rabbit and it died. We also have to keep the children away from the garden when we mulch because of the centipedes.

  18. Moana Lee

    Centipedes are a scorpions’ natural predator hence you have both.
    Natural scorpion predators include birds, frogs, centipedes, spiders, lizards and snakes.

    Your farm may be “short” on shrews, toads, badgers or birds, including chickens. Get some big, fat chickens to eat up on the centipedes after they have taken care of scorpions.

    Take care.

  19. Sorry to be negative but where was the enthusiasm by the Jordanians to follow through on this project??
    Did I miss something??

  20. Good work. I would suggest anyone intersted in this area obtain a copy of the 1929 book by J Russel Smith “Tree Crops”. It contains a mass of information and ideas on erosion/trees/dryland cropping and of course food production.

    I think the first chapters are still available for viewing on the net.

  21. Yikes? A 13hp chipper? How about 13 ten-year-old boys with big sticks? That’s what children do, whack things, and they consume and produce nutrients within the system without fossil fuel. Please, efficiency is how we got where we are, fast is not best and working together in a food system is what Permaculture is all about, ecologically, socially, and culturally. Gack I shudder at the thought of another single purpose gas guzzler. Last I heard gas was a finite resource. Great video and even greater work.

    1. Hae,been interested in greening Kenya..with 80% of the land as dry land..a long short I know,bh willing to spend my life doing it..if I took the northern part,which is driest wot wud u suggest I do

  22. I’ve got 400 acres of farmland in the Chihuahua desert. Permaculture Design plan step one observation starting feb 1, 2012. If I didn’t see this, I never would have thought that it could occur. thank you so much for believing that we can save our world, you taught me the same.

  23. Is there a “works cited” resource I can find anywhere on this video? I am writing a research paper for a University class with the task of defining permaculture, and wanted to include this video as an example of achieving what most would view as impossible.

    What is needed that I am missing is the author or director of the video (Geoff Lawton?), the producer, and the release date (December 11th 2009?).

    On a separate note, I would also like to pass on the essays, which I have spend countless hours on to perfect, to where they can be used, perpetuating a positive impact towards helping the land, the people, and sharing the surplus. I would rather see these writing out there being used, than see all that energy stagnate in a pile.

    Any ideas from anybody here?

  24. This is not just another GREAT video you put out, Geoff. This is an ENTIRE AWESOME permaculture class on super arid climate, and it was very nice to finally see your wife, Nadia, talking about permaculture. Congratz on this most beautiful and important work you’ve done, mate! Here’s to it!
    Cheers from Brazil :)

  25. I think what Geoff has done here just proves where the problem is, in storage.
    I watched the video about Jordan women and wrote this comment below the video:
    At the same time, the winter rains bring flash floods, also in Jordan. That is the missing water! Why?
    See the images of the flash floods on this link:

    As long as there are no indigenous forests on the high grounds in Jordan, the water problem will just worsen. Once ancient forests are restored, the winter rains will be stored in the earth that the tree roots in the forest bind. That water will travel in part underground and top up the ground water for water wells and in part overground, re-enabling cultivation of land only cultivated before as long as the forest still stood in the hills. But forests must be indigenous trees as a capital investment in year around fertile climate, not fast-growing trees for timber that pick up diseases and has not large enough roots. When the forests have been planted herds of goats and sheep must be kept safely away from the new forests, else they eat all shoots. The reason for no “natural regrowth of forests now. A few years after planting there will be lush fields below the new forests that is kept with water for very much longer seasons than the sheep could graze higher after current rain season, seasons that will extend across the seasons as long as the forests are allowed to continue to grow and are not chopped down for timber! Rwanda solved water continuity problems in part this way. Same in Ethiopia and on the Loess Plateau in China. Main reason the forests are not growing back naturally is “us”, herding our animals up high, who then eat all new tree shoots.

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