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Reinventing Roots
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PermaNegev week 5: A cornucopia of a week!

Project: Reinventing Roots

Posted by Alice Gray about 12 years ago

As PermaNegev reaches its closing stages, thanks to Jono for this review:

Its Friday, 19th May, 2012; and the end of an action-packed penultimate week on PermaNegev; the permaculture design certificate in a fledgling Bedouin permaculture project in the Israeli desert. We have gone from 5 to 12 participants (approx) with the permaculture exchange students up from Lotan Permaculture Kibbutz.

Alice kicked Monday off with a seminar on desert tree selection over a workshop, germinating seeds and setting up a tree nursery. We boiled, soaked and learnt about Akasia raddiana, Akasia relifka, Albitsia lebbeck, Carob, Gum Arabic and Lueina. In the afternoon we split into smaller work groups; made pots and planted seeds, worked on the shade structure of the neighboring woman’s garden project, put the roof on and repaired the tire-rubber hinges of the compost toilet, buried some plumbing, finished the fence and planted a cactus perimeter.

After finishing a few of the previous night’s jobs on Tuesday morning, we enjoyed tales from our local herb master, Sheikh Ali, over a forty herb brew. Ali started studying the medicinal properties of desert plants in his early twenties, collecting traditional Bedouin knowledge. He then spent years investigating the medicinal properties of new plants, combinations and preparation methods to interrogate and expand on this knowledge. For these experiments, he was his own guinea pig and would occasionally eat something that really messed him up. He has since completed a related degree, developed a range of useful plant based products, made many sick people feel better and plans to develop a herb garden and preparation facilities in the permaculture project that is our base. Alice gave an afternoon talk on soil management. Meanwhile, the shade house collapsed; the many hands from Lotan were greatly appreciated for the ensuing resurrection shenanigans that evening.

Field trip Wednesday starts with a bus to Shivta, a Nabatian city that thrived in the arid desert, sans well, 1500 plus years ago through smart and careful use of rain. We started in the ruins of the old city discussing domestic and urban water management. Beneath the houses of Shivta are approx 50 large private domestic cisterns. Any overflow from these cisterns goes into the system that channels any spare water into the central public open reservoir. Next on our agenda was earth works. We took a brief walk to the nearby Nabatian orchard. This ancient farm consists of a series of terraces built in a shallow valley fed by gullies that reach out from the valley to curve around the hill to bring all the rain water in. We ate beneath a Carob tree. Back on the mini-bus one of the members of our group asked if we could visit the orchard of a friend, which we did, which turned out to be a reconstructed Nabatian desert orchard in its fourth year, dripping with delicious fruits and good idea’s (such as the bird houses that invite the owl’s in and keep the rodents down, the diversity of weeds that minimize any pest problems, etc, etc.)

On Thursday morning we made a water level to mark dig and cactus a swale before Chaym, our visiting teacher for the morning arrived. Chaym was an activist working with an organization called Ta’ayush, through which he met and befriended Ahmed. Ahmed is a Palestinian who lost all but a tiny plot of his land when Israel built a massive, oppressive wall through his farm. Chaym has been working with Ahmed for over a decade to develop an intensive organic micro farm, the engaging and informative tales from which I can do no justice to in this paragraph. After lunch was another fascinating discussion, as David, our Arabic history/politics/cultural studies teacher arrived for the last of our weekly sessions, which may or may not be directly related to permaculture, but certainly is an integral part of PermaNegev.

Now that cornucopia of a week – a week in which indigenous rights activists chewed the moral political fat with Jewish American Zionists permaculture students over the study of the intersection of ancient and alternative ways of living, over the planting of plants and working of the earth – is over; I wonder how other permaculture design certificate courses deal with the political significance of reviving and developing alternatives to our industrial culture.


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Carly Gillham
Carly Gillham : Beautiful write up! Thank you for sharing xxx
Posted about 12 years ago

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