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Letters from Jordan – IPC10 and the Permaculture Princess

Princess Basma bint Ali of Jordan opens IPC10
Photographs © Craig Mackintosh

The opening of the Tenth International Permaculture Conference (IPC10) already saw Permaculture getting the attention it deserves. Over 100 people from around the world were seated to ‘break bread’ at the conference’s opening gala dinner on the evening of Friday September 16. Aside from permaculturists from every continent, the event also drew (by our own ‘subversive’ design) people of influence from within Jordanian society who we hope will absorb the all-important Permaculture concepts and use their privileged positions to help permeate the kingdom’s populace with them. Not least amongst these was Princess Basma bint Ali of Jordan.

The banquet hall

Some of you may recall our first encounter with the Princess (click on this link for more background on the Princess and her environmental work). Since that time, now over a year ago, the Princess has taken an active interest in Permaculture — including visiting the PRI Jordan’s ‘Greening the Desert, the Sequel’ site in the Dead Sea Valley — and was kind enough to take the role of Patron of the IPC10.

It’s not a typical Permaculture backdrop,
but it’s certainly a good place to influence the influential

Nadia Lawton introduced Princess Basma bint Ali to the podium, where she made the following inspiring speech. I think a few in the audience had lumps in their throats as she spoke….

Professors, doctors, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen…. Welcome to the 2011 10th International Permaculture Conference in Amman. It is truly a great pleasure and honour for Jordan to host the 10th conference — the theme of which is water!: Water for life, water for nature!

I would first like to quote from the holy Quran a verse which I believe teaches us the very significance of this scarce resource.

…[Arabic text]…

Loosely translated, it means, “We made from the water everything live”.

As you can see, water is the very essence of life, without which we will all perish. When I first started working in the environment, Jordan was listed as the 11th most water poor country in the world. Fifteen years on we are now listed as the third, and some even say the 2nd poorest in water. As striking a figure as this may be it should give us the motivation to heal the wounds we have inflicted on our beloved country and land. These wounds are a direct result of our arrogance (and I mean arrogance), bad governance, poor management and finally disrespect and disregard of our elders’ wisdom, more popularly known as ‘traditional knowledge’. For many centuries our predecessors developed means of living that are in harmony with nature and its various systems. Each community knew nature quite intimately; having learnt from their forbears, they respected these systems because they regarded themselves as a part of it. It is only within the last 100 – 150 years that man has lost this connection and as a result has infected the earth with many illnesses; the most deadly of all being climate change. Today we see the consequences of our mistakes through encroaching desertification, which makes climate refugees, shortage in food security resulting in famine, and an unending list of natural disasters.

However, all is not lost. I truly believe that we have the ability to change for the better, … through Permaculture! We can begin to mend the earth and alleviate the stress that many people are facing. Permaculture is the future — that is, if we want to secure a future of independence and dignity for all.

It is time to assume the God-given role of humans on this earth, which is to be the vice-regents of earth. Meaning, it is our role to protect, conserve and above all, respect, this blessed bounty — not usurp, abuse and exploit it. I see Permaculture techniques as the tools we have to make that a reality.

That is why I wish you all the best of luck in the conference and I look forward to the outcomes and bridges that will be made in the next coming days. — Princess Basma bint Ali of Jordan, speaking at the opening of the Tenth International Permaculture Conference (IPC10)

It’s no small thing to have royal endorsement and support for our work in the kingdom. As well as the Princess, the audience also included officials from the Jordanian agricultural departments and even a high commissioner from Australia.

Princess Basma was very pleased to meet Bill Mollison, whose work she has
referenced in her book on her Royal Botanic Gardens

A new day dawns tomorrow morning, with keynote speakers addressing the Princess, other officials and up to 140 attendees. We work in the hope it will leave a lasting impression on the people of Jordan — a people well aware of their need for tangible solutions to very pressing problems.

The Jordan Army Band treated us to bagpipes and drums


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