Greening the Desert Project, Jordan September 2018
Stepping onto the site in late September 2018, just at the end of summer, the trees of the food forest are looking impressive. Our support species have moved from thorny nitrogen-fixers, like Prosopis and Jerusalem thorn, to less aggressive species, such as albizzia, cassia, Casuarina, and leucaena. The thorny nitrogen-fixers were cut down to the ground, and the detritus was piled into deep mulch pits. Many of the second wave of nitrogen-fixers were pollarded eleven months ago and have regenerated since, providing shade and, soon, more biomass for the forest floor. Other support species are helping to provide mulch (Tecoma stans, Hibiscus tiliaceus), as well as fixing phosphate (Washingtonia robusta).
The results of cultivating all this support is evident. Citrus trees, which require acidic soils, are now beginning to fruit. There are lemons, pomelos, kumquat, and several other varieties of citrus growing. Classic desert crops—olives, dates, moringa—are thriving and providing impressive yields. (I’ve sneakily sampled the guava and can’t resist pulling a couple of dates off for a snack.) Extending the collection of productive trees, kei apples and papayas are getting solid starts, as are carob trees. Many of these trees are tucked beneath the shade of the support species, which provided valuable shelter in the desert, and that has helped everything survive nearly six months without a drop of rain.
The site is designed to optimize water available. Three rock-wall swales capture rainwater and irrigation runoff so that no water goes to waste. Reed beds, too, are being redone as they are crucial to recycling water. The mulch pits act like sunken hügelkultur mounds, capturing and holding water. Even so, the site cannot yet operate self-sufficiently handle all of its own water needs. Tanks are filled to help with irrigation, and water is harvested from the mains, which come on about twice a week. Though our goal, the collective goal of permaculturists around the world, is to reach sustainability, we must work towards demonstrating what can be done responsibly in the current systems until, ultimately, we reach a tipping point.
And, the site is having an influence in the area. Neighbors are coming in to visit, seeing the progression of Greening the Desert. Lots of new things are going in to facilitate this local interest. There are new pathways, new composting toilets for the classroom, and a new tool shed. Perhaps the most exciting addition in progress is the organic coffee shop and retail outlet that will be open to the public and open out onto the street.