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Please Support Marda Permaculture Farm (West Bank, Palestine)


Murad Alkufash
Photo © Craig Mackintosh

This is an urgent call for support of the Marda Permaculture Farm, which is in dire need of financial support to bring it beyond day-to-day survival into a thriving, ecologically and economically sustainable farm and training center. At this time, its finances are at an all-time low, and immediate support is needed to maintain it until further funds are raised through produce sales and grants.

On a scanty budget of about $15,000 to $20,000 per year, the Marda Permaculture farm has hosted hundreds of international interns and volunteers, provided Permaculture Design Courses for nearly 50 local farmers, agricultural engineers, activists, and backyard gardeners, and about as many international students.

With support from local and international partners, the Marda Farm has transformed into a thriving model of all-organic local permaculture design featuring traditional Palestinian terraces, swales, a greenhouse, plant guilds, construction using natural building and recycled materials, an orchard, bees, chickens, pigeons, compost system, and much more. It is the only fully developed permaculture farm of its kind in the West Bank.

Perhaps most importantly, over the past four years the farm has gained the support of its surrounding community — the village of Marda, and become a vital source of support for local food production. Local farmers and backyard gardeners visit the site on a daily basis, receiving technical assistance and mentoring from Murad, and when available, seeds, seedlings, or extra produce.

The Farm has provided locals with economic support by hiring local laborers when finances allowed, as well as the opportunity for families to host international students for a fee. Last year, 10 families received technical support and supplies to build graywater systems on their properties, in orer to reduce precious fresh water use, reduce water bills, and thus enable more extensive gardening.

Also last year, seven families were provided with bee hives and training to care for the bees. This year we have applied for funding to support 10 more hives and a honey processor that can be used by community members. The presence of the Marda Farm, and Murad’s diligence in developing it and sharing his knowledge has led to a marked increase in backyard gardens, and production of organic produce in the village of Marda.

Each year Murad struggles to make ends meet. Without the funds to bring on a consistent administrative person to write grants, support income generating strategies, and assist with international communications, Murad becomes overwhelmed, and stressed, as financial resources continue to barely cover costs.

The Farm has an urgent need to bring on administrative support and increased local labor to help oversee management of the Farm. This will enable Murad to increase outreach activities, expand farm operations, and build a foundation of financial support and organizational capacity so that it can reach its full potential as a long-term learning site and center for cross-cultural exchange between the people of rural Palestine and the international community.

Please help us ensure that the Marda Permaculture Farm can be sustained into the future!

To find out how you can donate, please email the farm at: mardapermaculture (at) gmail.com

Note: Murad has asked me to request that Australian residents who want to donate can pay through PRI Australia, to make it easier for you. Please see different options for paying here. Please ensure to put a note that the donation is for ‘Marda Permaculture Farm’. If in doubt, please email education (at) permaculture.org.au to advise of the payment, and the method used. 100% of donated money goes to Marda. Thank you for your assistance.

Read more about Marda Permaculture Farm via the following links:

5 Comments

  1. Hi am really interested in helping maybe setting up a twinning with a permaculture college in Cork. Please would someone get in touch with me asap. I would like to make up some flyers and get them posted round the college. Thanks vanessa xx

  2. Marda Permaculture Farm Fact Sheet

    Project Description
    The Marda Permaculture Farm is a working farm and a demonstration site for permaculture principles, techniques and strategies. Based in the village of Marda, the project promotes food security, health, self-reliance and empowerment. This is accomplished through modeling water harvesting, recycling, energy conservation and home-scale garden production with readily available and locally-appropriate materials.
    Outreach is accomplished through permaculture workshops for women, men, and farmers—as well as international students, interns and apprentices. The Farm is a model of sustainable development and self-sufficiency for the whole of Palestine and to build connections with permaculture projects regionally and internationally.
    Problems Addressed by the Project
    The primary problems we are addressing through our project are food and water security for the people of the rural West Bank. The village of Marda (pop.2600) situated in the Salfit region of the West Bank is overlooked by the major Jewish settlement of Ariel (pop.45,000) and the Separation Wall. When the Separation Wall was completed around Marda in 2005, land and water resources previously owned by Palestinians were annexed and thousands of olive trees were destroyed.
    Meanwhile, the rubbish and sewage from the settlement pollutes other water sources and litters Marda village (Ariel’s rubbish dump is just above the village). All over Palestine, the energy and food supply are controlled by the Israeli state, and prices are high. Meanwhile, there is 70–80% unemployment in the village. Until the mid-1990’s many Marda residents worked in Israel, which is no longer possible except in rare circumstances. The presence of the Ariel settlement means that the village of Marda cannot expand, while it prevents easy travel to other villages in the region, particularly to the regional center of Salfit.
    The high rate of unemployment puts tremendous stress on a few wage earners to support their large extended families. At the same time, the cost of the most basic needs—food, water, and energy for electricity, heating and cooling, has risen at an alarming rate in recent years. Food and water insecurity is a problem because the people of Marda, who used to farm the land communally and grow much of their own produce, grains and meat, have experienced much of their land taken by the Israeli settlement or Ariel.
    As a result, farming has been reduced to small backyard gardens, leaving Marda Farm and one other property actively producing food at a larger scale. The settlement takes an increasingly large share of the water supply from the area and as a result, water costs have risen to about 4 shekels per cubic meter. This makes it expensive for people to grow their own gardens, as it requires more water than the household normally uses. As a result, much of their produce is now purchased from other villages or from international sources at very high cost.
    Marda Farm Goals
    • Provide a dynamic model for organic, ecologically-designed, high-production farming techniques on small acreages with minimal use of energy and water, beneficial recycling and composting of waste materials, and integration of multiple components including orchards, chickens, bees, plant guilds, food forests, composting, and natural building.
    • Provide Permaculture Design Courses at least annually for international and local students; to provide Palestinian agricultural engineers, farmers, and backyard gardeners as well as international participants dryland permaculture techniques and tools.
    • Provide trainings, education, and resources for local people to help them reduce costs by growing more of their own food, using less energy and water, and developing micro-enterprises to supplement their income.
    • Provide a cross-cultural opportunity for international interns, apprentices, visitors and PDC students to learn about the agricultural tradition within rural Palestine, as well as the current socio-economic, cultural, and political climate for Palestinians, thus raising awareness within the international community of Palestinians’ often silenced experiences living under military occupation.
    2011 Activities and Budget

    In 2011 the Marda Farm organized its third Permaculture Design Course. It is currently providing technical assistance for local families to integrate and maintain greywater systems and raise honeybees for family use and supplemental income. A natural building chicken coop was built on site. Murad presented at the Permaculture Conference, after which he facilitated a tour of the Marda Permaculture Farm for conference participants.

    Overall Successes

    Marda Farm Site Design
    The Marda Farm has developed into a thriving model of permaculture design principles, and is the only one of its kind in the West Bank. It models core permaculture techniques and principles including all organic methods, use of plant guilds and food forests, composting, greenhouse, swales to retain water and build soil, integration of orchards with fruit and nut trees, vineyards, chickens, pigeons, bees, and composting.

    Permaculture Design Courses
    We have facilitated three Permaculture Design Workshops (PDC) for both local and international students, with the guidance of permaculture instructors from Australia, the US, the UK, Canada, and Norway. Participants have included agricultural engineers, architects, farmers, artists, writers, and activists. Our 2010 PDC integrated Arabic courses, Palestinian culinary arts, and historical walking tours for international students.

    Local Community Outreach
    We have successfully established ten graywater systems for families across the community, as well as five bee hives for their respective households. We have provided guidance and consultation on gardening techniques for interested community members, and have provided seeds, seedlings, and composts at no cost.

    International Outreach
    The Marda Permaculture Farm has attracted at least 500 visitors from all corners of the globe– as interns, apprentices, short term visitors, and PDC participants. Over the years a multitude of articles, videos, and other media has been produced on the Marda Permaculture Farm. Murad Al Khufash has travelled to Portugal to share the work of the Marda Permaculture Farm there, as well as to the Permaculture Conference in Jordan in 2011. Following the conference in Jordan, participants travelled to Marda and toured the Marda Permaculture Farm, learning more about the historical, cultural and political context for the project.

    Challenges
    The biggest challenge currently facing the Marda Permaculture Farm is lack of sufficient funding. This is a source of constant stress for Murad, and for the project itself. With greater funding we would construct a green-designed building on site for classes and an office; build a community-based compost system; add goats; increase our Permaculture Design Courses to two per year; and bring in an administrative support person to manage communications, office duties, event coordination, and grantwriting.

    News and Articles
    https://permaculturenews.org/2010/06/30/letters-from-the-west-bank-seeds-of-hope-scattered-from-the-west-banks-first-pdc/
    https://permaculturenews.org/2011/11/11/murad-alkufash-marda-permaculture-farm-planting-seeds-of-hope-in-the-occupied-territories/
    https://permaculturenews.org/2012/08/23/permaculture-in-palestine-a-green-revolution/
    https://permaculturenews.org/2010/01/26/permaculture-in-the-west-bank/

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