From Desert to Oasis in 4 Years (Jordan)

Geoff Lawton’s next video in his ever-expanding lineup takes you to Wadi Rum in Jordan where he consulted on a 10 acre organic farm and rebuilt their failing farm into a commercial success. Wadi Rum looks very much like your classic inhospitable desert region. It was used in the early 1960s as the backdrop set for the David Lean’s masterpiece, “Lawrence of Arabia.” If you’ve ever watched the movie as Geoff had, you’ll be greeted with a sense of déjà Vu. The place looks familiar and intimidating. Geoff says it still has access to water in the dry Wadi canyons and aquifers.

Geoff was given waste water from an industrial agricultural farm nearby to prove the concept of permaculture on a 10 acre site that wanted to go organic but were not sure how to start.

Geoff’s initial design used pioneer trees and legumes, but some of the design was ignored because these trees were seen as being unproductive. Consequently the result was a crop failure. Permaculture was blamed, but too much sunlight and not enough water retention and shading strategies were the problem.

When Geoff returned he insisted that his design be fully implemented in total, placing one of his Permaculture students to overseer the development.

The design in place, and the result four years later, is quite remarkable.

Some tips from Geoff include the use of succulent ground covers. They moderate the soil and also capture nutrient from sand being blown past by the hot desert wind. It’s hard to believe that this farm is built on shifting desert sands and that’s why over-storey date palms were introduced to limit the effects of wind, but also to shade the emerging canopy below, allowing them to grow in filtered sunlight.

Swale lines are flooded and the design uses trellis systems to create pools of shaded areas.

Geoff explains that when donkeys die in the desert don’t immediately rot down due to lack of moisture. The decomposition process can take years in the desert. It’s these tiny particles of needed nutrient that are captured by succulent ground covers that he designed into the system that aided in creating nutrient soil deposits under their spreading carpet-like thick mulch.

There are more strategies revealed in the full length video.

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