We started about 11 years ago, and it looked like the other bare blocks around the area. we purchased the land, created a society, and gave the land to the society. There was no funding, so everything advanced slowly. With each new success came a new stream of funding. Course by course, they volunteered, and the site got off the ground, so much so that funding eventually came from LUSH (https://www.lush.com). Ultimately, Mulsim Aid Australia (https://www.muslimaid.org.au) began funding the project and made it a focal point of its sustainable development program.
In this way, GTD started off in the opposite direction of most aid projects. Most start with a lot of money, look very good the day they open, and dwindle away over the next ten years. Ten years ago, GTD looked terrible and had no money. But, every year more people came. With increased results, the funding increased. After about five years, local interest grew. Last year the site finally opened, and now Jordan’s Ministry of Agriculture as well as local schools and other interests are taking the courses.
Two aspects of the living system make all the difference: nitrogen-fixing trees that can be coppiced and practical water catchment systems. The trees build the soil. Each year, they are cut for the winter, and by April, they’ve regrown to provide shade. The organic matter from the annual trim feeds the soil. As for the water, by design, everything that comes onto the site, the limited rainfall as well as what people use, is soaked into the soil. These two valuable puzzle pieces provided the pathway into diversity.
Wicking beds are throughout the site. They are the most efficient gardens in terms of water usage because they are watered from below, with no risk of evaporation. Worm beds are another means of fertility, with tens of thousands of worms being feed food scraps so that they can supply both liquid and solid fertilizer.
But, the real engine of fertility on site is the chicken tractor. It makes more fertilizer than any other element, all the while producing eggs and some chicken meat. Every week, manured mulch (1/3 cubic meter) is taken from under the roost and piled in the chicken coop with goat/sheep manure (1/3 cubic meter) and food scraps (1/3 cubic meter). During the week, the chickens scratch it all apart. Then, the cycle repeats, with the old pile moving further down the chicken coop and a new pile forming. Once in motion, this system produces a cubic meter of compost a week, on just 3000 square meters of land, only 2000 of which is growing space. That seriously changes the soil fertility in a short time.
The most important earthwork/water harvesting features on the site are the three swales. The longest reaches from the lowest point on the highest boundary and extends across the site. These don’t let any water runoff, whether it’s rain or irrigation.
Reed beds are another vital water conservation system, particularly for homes. The plants clean greywater from sinks and showers then that water can irrigate fruit trees. Sixty people on site have been using the showers for two weeks now, so that’s a lot of water going to the gardens to grow food.
Electricity begins with gallium selenium solar panels on the roof, and they feed into nickel-iron batteries that can last up to 100 years. A Dutch invertor takes the electricity and brings it up to the mains power, converting the energy into something that won’t damage appliances (for more info visit: https://24hoursolarpower.com).
The building is built with standard concrete forms and pillars because that’s what people here trust. However, the walls on the west and south sides are made from straw bale while the eastern and northern walls are constructed from mudbricks. All of the internal walls are mudbrick, and all of the upstairs walls are straw bale. The mudbricks have thermal mass that, kept out the sun, remain cool, functioning like a natural air conditioner. On the other side of the house, the straw bale is a great insulator against the sun, which is particularly troublesome in the afternoon, on the western walls. The trees around the building are also cut seasonally, allowing more sun in during the winter and providing increasing shade during the summer.