Letters from Jordan – Jordan Welcomes the 2011 International Permaculture Conference & Convergence

To book your place at IPC10 (September, 2011), go here!

The famous Wadi Rum desert region, site of the 1962 Laurence of Arabia epic,
will be hosting the September 2011 IPC 10 Convergence

All photographs © copyright Craig Mackintosh

Every two years, members of the international permaculture community cooperate to organise an International Permaculture Conference (IPC). Each meeting is held on a different continent, and is made up of two main separate events, serving two distinct purposes. The first meetings of the event, the conference, is aimed at permaculture ‘evangelisation’, where key people of the region are invited to hear presentations about permaculture that are particularly relevant to them, and between meetings they can converse and network with the many leading permaculturists who attend. It helps spread permaculture in the respective regions. The second phase is the convergence, an entirely in-house get-together where permaculturists from around the world can network, share experiences and knowledge, and develop strategies for fast-tracking permaculture uptake worldwide. These two main events are nestled between two other components – a two-week PDC before the conference, and a tour of interesting sites after the convergence.

Participants at the convergence also discuss and vote for their choice for where the next IPC should be held. The last IPC was held in Oct/Nov 2009 in Lilongwe, Malawi, Africa, and at that event Jordan was awarded the privilege of hosting IPC10. It will be the first time the IPC will be held in the Middle East.

As such, Geoff and Nadia Lawton have been working with their Jordanian contacts to develop support for the event. And, as you’ll see from what I share below, this effort is proving very fruitful to date. We now have some of the most influential people in the country assisting us in our plans to organise a highly successful IPC10.

The Princess and the Permaculturists

Jordan is officially The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. It is a constitutional monarchy. As such, getting the endorsement of the Jordanian Royal Family was high on our agenda. If this endorsement is secured, it virtually eliminates bureaucratic problems with local officials who may not comprehend the importance of our work for their nation.

What better way to gain Royal support than to approach Princess Basma bint Ali, an avid supporter, no, initiator, of environmental and sustainable development programs.

From left to right: Lesley Byrne, Princess Basma bint Ali,
Nadia, Geoff and Latifa Lawton, in Amman, Jordan

It’s not every day you get to meet a princess, but there we were. Geoff and Nadia Lawton and myself – from the Permaculture Research Institute – and Lesley Byrne of Kids are Sweet International, all went along to talk to Princess Basma bint Ali of Jordan about IPC10. We were scheduled for a one-hour meeting, but the discussion proved so interesting the appointment stretched to three hours.

The Princess was initially cautious in conversation with us. She afterwards explained that this was due to the many profit-oriented organisations who approach her with quasi-organic concepts that fall short of the mark and are ultimately detrimental to people and place. I was personally very pleasantly surprised to hear her stressing her belief that organic agriculture, in the forms we generally observe, typically misses the point, failing to take a full, holistic, relationship-centric view of the natural world.

The Princess has been extremely active on the sustainability front. Amongst her many efforts (she, for example, pushed for and secured a staged requirement that mandates and assists all Amman residents into water harvesting), thirteen years ago she conceived the idea of a Royal Botanic Gardens that would showcase biodiversity preservation techniques. The RBG consists of approximately 800 hectares of land overlooking the King Talal Dam (map), approximately 25 kilometres north of the capital, Amman. This is no usual Botanical Garden, as the Princess explained – but rather a research and educational station trialing water harvesting techniques (including swales, gabions, etc.), plant guilds and much more, with a vision of water use maximisation, native species preservation, soil building, reforestation and landscape repair.

A paragraph from a book on the RGB that she kindly gave me provides insights into her vision, one she has unwittingly – until now – shared with permaculturists:

Drought is not just a matter of bad luck in rainfall: clearing the land for agriculture, animal forage and construction actually makes a landscape inhospitable to rain. Of all the available water in the air 15-20% falls as rain – if it can condense on organic nuclei heavy enough to fall from the air. Of this 80-85% of condensed ‘leaf water’, approximately 20% evaporates again into the air; approximately 50% is transpired by plants and forms clouds – if it can condense on organic nuclei. 10-15% re-enters groundwater to become streams & river. Trees produce more of the water in rivers than rainfall does. At least 50% of every cloud is composed of condensation from trees.

In addition to being surprised and suitably impressed with the Princess’ insights, I was also promptly battling feelings of frustration! This was due to the fact that we completely shared the Princess’ concerns about plant-focussed ‘organic’ agriculture and it was thus an unexpected and almost comedic turn of events for us to be on the defensive in this regard!

But, after a lively discussion of various projects occuring worldwide, including what is arguably the largest land regeneration project in the world, the Princess began to discern that we were wholly on her side of the fence on these issues! In short, we were all speaking the same language, and by the end of the meeting she fully recognised this.

We not only left with a royal endorsement for the 2011 conference, but two of her staff will now also be taking a PDC in Jordan under Geoff in October 2010!

NCARE (National Centre for Agricultural Research and Extension) are well and truly on side

Geoff and Nadia Lawton stand with the head of NCARE
and a few of his team members

People who have watched the updated Greening the Desert II video may recognise Mohammed Ayesh (above, at right), a Water & Environment Researcher who spent considerable time at the original Greening the Desert site in the Dead Sea valley (the lowest place on earth at 400 metres below sea level), where Geoff transformed a piece of salted desert landscape into a productive food forest and garden system in three years. Mohammed researched the impact of Geoff’s permaculture implementation, resulting in his becoming an avid supporter of all things permacultural. He even published a book in Arabic on the topic (see video link above for more on this), circulating it to hundreds of people in the agriculture field in Jordan, and, despite his meek-mannered personality has been persistently pestering his boss, the head of this Jordanian government agricultural department, to do what he can to support the growth of permaculture in Jordan.

Just after we arrived in in the country last week, as we were travelling to a consultancy in Wadi Rum, the famously beautiful desert region in the deep south of the country, Mohammed repeatedly tried to contact us. As it turned out, the head of NCARE wanted to meet with us, for reasons unknown.

We found time to meet with them later in Amman, discovering they had got wind of our intention to stage the IPC in the country, and wanted to see how they could help. We had intended to solicit their support, but they beat us to it!

NCARE talks to Geoff and Nadia Lawton about organising IPC10.
Geoff taught a PDC to 18 NCARE staff in 2003

NCARE committed to organising accommodation for conference attendees – with options for different budgets. They will arrange a conference hall, and provide for our technical needs (projectors, etc.) and, wait for it, they will in addition use their influence to clear all visas! Considering we anticipate many arriving from two-thirds world countries, who can often get rejected, this latter assistance is particularly significant.

Conference and Convergence Locations and Dates

We’re still ironing out the details, and we welcome your input, but the tentative plans for the two meetings are as follows:

The conference would be a one day event – but possibly two – held in the capital of Amman. The opening dinner would be the evening of Friday September 16th, 2011. A full conference day would follow on September 17th, with presentations from several keynote speakers, focussing on issues relevant to dryland regions. The 18th would be a leisurely day of travel to Wadi Rum, the site of the convergence, 285 kilometres (or 3.5 hours) to the south. We would arrange buses for this trip. The convergence would be a three-day event, held in a fantastic campsite amongst some of the world’s most beautiful desert scenery, complete with Bedouin tents, solar lighting and amenities.

The Wadi Rum campsite is 45 minutes from Jordan’s only port, Aqaba on the Red Sea, and one and a half hours from the ancient city of Petra (BC600) – of Indiana Jones and the last Crusade fame, and former home to the more deservingly famous Nabataeans who were experts in water harvesting.

Approaching Petra and the famous treasury
Wait for the animation….

In addition to permaculture group events, we intend to have a few Bedouin share some of their traditional knowledge – on such subjects as herbs, weaving, fermenting (yoghurt), etc.

Jordan welcomes the permaculture world

This is personally my second visit to the country, and, like Geoff, I’m starting to feel right at home here. The people are full of smiles and very welcoming. (I don’t know how many "Welcome to Jordan"s I’ve received!) It is a region of cultural diversity, rich heritage and incredible historical significance.

There’s more to tell from this trip, so watch for another post or two – but we’re excited about the potential to continue to build on the tireless labours of Geoff and Nadia and many others for the people of Jordan and the Middle East. These nations are the most water stressed of any, and, as you can see, they’re eager to find solutions. It’s a pleasure to work for them.

Four generations of Nadia’s family – her 70+ year old father at right, and
100+ year old grandmother at centre

With this post I am passing along a big "welcome" from the generous, warm-hearted people of Jordan. The people here want you to be part of this solutions-focussed effort for the region!

To book your place at IPC10 (September, 2011), go here!

Nadia’s 100+ year old grandmother, tattooed, as was common
with Bedouin of the day

Photos of Wadi Rum Convergence campsite (more pictures of Wadi Rum below that):


General Wadi Rum pictures to follow:



22 thoughts on “Letters from Jordan – Jordan Welcomes the 2011 International Permaculture Conference & Convergence

  1. WOW! Thank You, Thank You, Thank You for all your hard work.
    One of the most amazing things about Permaculturists and the community it engulfs is that cooperation fills your dance card and is the foundation while ‘good ol’ boy’competition never gets invited to the party!
    Every day in every way…..it just keeps getting better and better and better!

  2. Dear Geoff & crew,

    Don’t know if you caught this, but Popular Mechanics just posted a slideshow demonstrating the Waterboxx, which is now being used at California vineyards to individually save 145,000 gallons of water per a year. The reusable system mimics the natural processes a seed experiences after being consumed and excreted by a bird. This controlled method allows for the controlled planting tree seeds, for the purposes of halting and reversing desertification.

    It was developed after observing how seeds successfully take to desert environments.


    Thanks for your great work, and good luck advancing your efforts in the Middle East.

  3. Geoff and Nadia work to weave healing into the world, many cultures and still one Permaculture, Wadi Rum Jordan or Zatuna Farm at The Channon Village in Australia Permaculture making a difference….well done and keep going….many thanks for all you have done and are doing…..paul taylor

  4. This is one of the most exciting things I have read all year! Especially about the water harvesting and the work the Princess is already doing: it looks like Jordan may well become the first permaculture nation: a whole healed nation, living by healing the land. It is just so utterly exciting! Well done!
    (P.s. Nadia’s grandmother hardly looks 70, never mind 100!!!!)
    All strenght & power for the conference.

  5. Geoff
    You are amazing keep up the healing of this world as much as we need it, I wish you could visit my Country Colombia we need someone like you here to spread the word ASAP

  6. Great work people….Daniel Rincon: you might want to contact the great Latin American organisation in COAS (https://www.coas.com.mx/) who already work in Colombia…there main agents there are Jairo Restrepo and Eugenio Gras, both of whom are extremely experienced and practical Permaculturalists. All the very best, Darren Doherty

  7. thanks Nada, Geoff and the Permaculture community in Jordan
    we are blessed

    The IPC9 was held in Oct/Nov 2009 in Lilongwe, Malawi, Africa, go look at http://www.ipcon.org, to look at the amazing presentations that where made at the last IPC , the Africans held an amazing for the International Permaculture Community

    now on to the planning in Jordan IPC10 in 2011 ,

  8. I share an interest in Permaculture with my daughter who has a permaculture garden, and I visited Jordan just months of the Twin Towers incident when no one else was there, and we also visited Wadi Rum. All amazing. I hope participants read widely about there 2 places and the hydrology and incense trade etc. There were spring bulbs popping up everywhere in both places when we were there, but living in the tropics I don’t recognise them. It was mid Feb when I was there and Petra was sprouting with sppring bulbs, but the men had no idea what idea what flowers they were or what colour. They could have been a type of tulip, but I’ll never know. Make sure you get more than just the tourist glimpse of Petra which we did because we were fit enough for a scramble up hilly terrain. Read the book I married a Bedoin. Best wishes, Jan Brown

  9. That will be an opportunity for us all to experience the legendary hospitality encountered in arab culture.
    No doubt the IPC 10 will have a strong seed component because, Jordan is very much a place where simple farmers have adapted their crops to salinity, drought tolerance, cold, etc. Just take sorghum, barley etc that bear good crops in places with less then 140 mm (that’s less than 5 inches) of rain a year. And that’s peasant farmers doing that, don’t they! That will be an amazing privilege to meet them and learn from them. Translators will be working overtime no doubt.

  10. Thanks guys…will be a great chance to share in the experiences and authenticity of all these elements to gain an understanding of the integrity of this entire event and all the peoples it has and will serve…thanks Steve Hart

  11. Wow! Thanks folks, this all looks amazing and is shaping up to be a great event leaving lasting goodness behind in Jordan. I can’t wait, I’ll be there with bells on!

  12. Thanks Craig, Geoff, and Nadia! Looking forward to seeing you in Jordan 2011 – I’ll work to get folks in the northeast USA raising funds to support delegates from majority-world countries.

  13. Geoff and Nadia — Looks amazing! Hope that Jan and I can see you there! Very exciting!

    If you come back to Santa Barbara let me know love to have you stay again!

  14. Hi Geoff & Nadia, and hello to Craig. I will be there and hope to bring my nephew Callum, who will be 11 by then. I was in Jordan ages ago and Wadi Rum was absolutely my favourite place. Although I think the Nabateans did quite a good job in Petra, too! On Callum’s list of things to see is the pyramids of Egypt; his fond aunt will take him, but first to the lovely people and amazing sights of Jordan with, of course, a bit of Permaculture education in between. Geoff: I recall my “promise” of what I would do after my PDC. My little townhouse garden now has regular visitors, although no other townies have taken up the challenge to have a Permaculture garden; I lead the local Hornsby Shire LGA Pc group and have started street parties to get to know my neighbours. Still working on the community garden for my suburb but design is underway to Pc the grounds of a local shopping village. I have even taught a couple of Pc classes for council: it’s great that Pc is now a regular in their workshop series. And I was able to give some Pc input into council’s revamping of an ecogarden. Best regards and best of luck with IPC 10!

  15. Wow. I just happened to run across this and thoroughly enjoyed it. What a wonderful trip you all had and with fantastic results. It is now 2 years later and my family and I have recently signed up for Geoff’s first online PDC. I can only say how excited everyone in my family is and reading some of the comments, in regards to this course; it’s pretty contagious with hundreds of people in many countries.

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