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Posted by Armand Mangeon over 8 years ago
The trip begins on the journey to a friend's farewell party. In the shared car, I met a fantastic woman, doctor, acunpuncturist and powerfully wise. She told me about a Méharée in the desert. Five days later, I was in Tunisia, on the road to Nouiel, the small village of our guide. Since I've had this dream about planting trees in a desert some months ago, I was planning projects in the Sahara but had not seen, felt the way we can be in a desert. So I jumped at the chance!
We walked barefoot for a week, watching the sun set and rise each day, with time for Qi Gong, meditation, and an introduction to The Work of Byron Katie, a simple and efficient way of observing one's thoughts. The nights gave me my first lessons in astronomy, and a lot of fun around the fire, mixing traditional bedouin and tunisian songs with irish music. My tin whistle did quite well accompanying and exchanging with the singers and the bindir, so it felt really good.
Okay that was the hippy part, let's skip it and go to the subject of that update !
When coming back from the desert, I was offered to stay with my guide's family in Nouiel, a small village of 2,000 people near Douz and work in the palm groves. I was looking forward to it, as I heard most of the families owners of palms were self-sufficient in fruits and vegetables. As a novice, I was particularly interested in the way they used water. Where does it come from ?! So I embarked several days in a pick up with 5 guys coming to work for the season. When the pick up was full of boxes of dates, and we were 7 trying not to fall because of lack of space, it felt like a real adventure "wouhou !".
It stroke me how the palm groves looked a bit like the image of an edible forest I had. The palms, main ressource of Douz region, make the canopee, while smaller fruit trees such as apple trees, fig trees, pomegranates and others I could not recognize constitute the small trees layer. Where the adventis have not "colonized" the earth (some might call it sand), vegetables are cultivated and cereals too, mainly barley. I saw potatoes, carrots, peppers, and some tomatoes, but I'm told almost every standard vegetables can be grown there. I can't say just yet ! It's funny how in France we try to maximise each layer's exposition to the sun, whereas here the palms shading the ground layers and avoiding the sun burn are a blessing.
Almost all the production of dates is made of a specific variety, deglet el nour, known as one of the best in the world. It is especially used as the first bit of food one might have after the Ramadan. Quite a big market indeed. The problem is that this is an unfixed celebration, so the dates are to be conserved sometimes for almost a year. According to this paper though, the deglet el nour is very demanding in water, and more inclined to diseases, hence needs protection. Remembering that handy permaculture principle : diversity is security, I can not help but feel a bit sad about this « monoculture ».
Around the trees, I could see small « walls », reminding me of a miny paddy field. The palms are watered once every two weeks from what I have heard, but I do not know how much water is used. It is quite easy to say which plots were watered recently, the green of ground layer contrasting with the yellow sand around. The water is pumped through deep wells (hundreds of meters?!), and a villager told me that they had to go each year deeper to find it. It seems that this culture is slowly vampirizing the water ressource, with the help of a growing tourism and thirsty deluxe hotels, while obviously the rains alimenting the groundwater are scarce.
Et voilà, I have been lucky in off to receive my first lesson in arid land agriculture ! I hope a lot more are to come.
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|Cours Certifiant de Permaculture|
|Type: Permaculture Design Certificate (PDC) course|
|Teacher: Steve Read|
|Location: La Poulanerie,Vareilles, France|
|Date: Sep 2012|