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Al Baydha Project
Al Baydha Project
Last updated:
Al Baydha, Makkah, SA
Climate zone:

Adam McShane Ahmed Alqahtani Ahmed Buasallay Alexander Ihlo Andrew Perlot Anselm Ibing Ashaari Rahmat Bee Winfield Bob Nekrasov Bron(wyn) Elliott Christian Douglas Damian Lester David  n Abigail David Rivera Ospina Delphine Drory Gaina Dunsire Giovanni Galluzzo Grant Van der Merwe Gurjeet Kaur Helder Valente Hoda Adra Holly Frantz Hubert de Kalbermatten IJAZ AHMAD Jeff Cardinale Jen Shrock João Gonçalves Joshua Finch karen noon Kathryn Weber Khadijah Lacina Kimberly Graham Lauren Salathiel Lorenzo Di Sandro Luke Sampson Mark Garrett Martin Zickendraht Maruska Zwarts Maryam Zaky Melissa Andrews Mujahid  Abdallah Nora Bouhaddada Patrick Kniesler Perry Way Ruiz Chris Salah Hammad Sami email500@gmx.com Sarvesvara Dasa Shariyf Abdul Qabid shaun plumtree Shazia Noor Stamatina Palmou Stephanie Ladwig-Cooper Sven Horner Wendy Howard
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Al Baydha Project

Project Type

Rural, Residential, Demonstration, Educational

Project Summary

The Al Baydha Project is helping settled bedou develop an abundant desert community. "Greening the Desert" on steroids.

Project Description

Introduction to Phase 1 of Al Baydha Project

Al Baydha is a 700 square kilometer area approximately 40 kilometers south of Makkah, with a settled population of nearly 5000 inhabitants. Citizens of Al Baydha face an impending collapse of their culture and way of life due to an imbalance between themselves and their environment. Economically, their two main activities are animal husbandry and cutting wood to be sold in Makkah, both of which depend entirely on the local ecology. Between their animals’ grazing and the woodcutting, Al Baydha has experienced large-scale degradation and rapid deforestation.

1. Deforestation

The deforestation has progressed enough that now the people must supplement their animals’ feed with imported barley and hay. As the deforestation continues, there will come a turning point where they can no longer afford to keep their flocks, and then they will have to move to the cities to seek work. If this happens, over the next two or three generations the local heritage will be lost.

Further, deforestation exacerbates the deadly floods of the rainy season, and leads to the loss of fertile desert soil through erosion.

2. Harvesting Water

The Al Baydha Project is implementing an alternative economic system that preserves the people’s heritage, enables them to stay on their land, and reestablishes balance between them and their environment. Moreover the people are being taught every aspect of the system so they can be self sufficient and continue once the project is over. 

The foundation of the Al Baydha Project is a water system that uses low-tech earthworks to change flash floods into rivers. This system replenishes aquifers, enables desert agriculture, and eliminates the damage caused by flash floods to human and animal life, as well as to infrastructure. Because its main components are earthworks, the water system is simple to learn, and requires only the cost of labor, some machinery work for moving heavy rocks, and 3-5 years of irrigation. If correctly implemented the system can last for hundreds of years.

3. Desert Agriculture

The agricultural system of the Al Baydha Project builds on the water system to establish food forests that provide forage for the people’s flocks, as well as fruit, fuel, timber, honey, meat, medicine, herbs, mulch, and shade for the people. Rather than planting one or two crops, the project will plant entire ecosystems that can thrive without human intervention, but in which every plant is beneficial to people.

4. Dairy Production

Once the water and agricultural systems are in place, the Al Baydha Project will work with the people to establish a dairy company, selling traditional cheese and butter, but with uniform production, and good hygiene, branding, and marketing. Part of this dairy program will be introducing a new cross-breed of goat that produces more milk but is still suited to the climate. As a result, the people will be able to sustain themselves on skills they already have, and will preserve their culture of animal husbandry in a sustainable way. The project has asked the help of goat-breeding expert, Dr. Mahmoud Abdel Aziz, professor of animal genetics at King Faisal University, to help with establishing the breeding and dairy program.

5. Successful Test of Water System

The Al Baydha Project water systems were the first systems implemented on the demonstration site. This was in order to maximize preparation before the typical rain season in the area, and to develop past experience for future water system works in the Al Baydha Village Complex. The 65 check dams, and 15 kilometers of terraces were hand-build by the 34 locals who have been trained in the water system to date. In addition there are 7 kilometers of swales which were dug by excavator. The water system’s first test was a flash flood on 24 Muharram 1432. According to local tradition, this was the largest storm in nearly 20 years. 80% of the water system held completely in-tact, and water level analysis estimates the water system initially soaked up between 10 and 14 million liters of water on the 160,000 square meter site.

6. Conclusion

The Al-Baydha Project is a pilot project with immense implications for the people in al-Baydha, and enormous poten- tial for the rest of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. This is an opportunity for The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to become an example to the world in sustainable development, to improve the lives of its poorest citizens, and to make the deserts green.

Benefits to the people of Al Baydha

• Increased employment in the short and long term.

• The dignity of independence and satisfaction from hard work.

• A more diverse economy that rejuvenates the environment, with marketable products ranging from cheese to honey to incense to education and consulting on similar projects.

• Rising water levels in the aquifers and wells.

• Fewer losses to flash floods.

• Small-scale food independence.

• A second chance for adults to get schooling and vocational training.

• Reclamation of native traditions and heritage.


Impact on Greater Saudi Arabia

• • • • • • •

•Low-tech, inexpensive flash flood control that stores  fresh water in the ground and reduces deaths and damage to infrastructure throughout the Kingdom.

•Proof that the Hijaz can be reforested and serve as a large area for domestic food production. 

•Become a model of sustainable development for the Arab World.

•Reduce people’s economic dependency on the government.

•Help reduce Saudi Arabia’s dependence on importing foods.

•Improve public health in rural areas.

•Reduce dependence on government and private charities for survival.

•Reduce strain on city centers by creating incentive to withdraw from major metropolitan areas.



The First Air-Conditioner-Fed Garden in Al Baydha

I'm hoping this spreads in the area as more people see it. Everyone has air conditioners and almost no one has a garden.

Posted over 12 years ago (1 comments)

Early Batches of Papercrete Mortar

A 60-20-20 mix of used paper, cement, and sand for blockmaking and plaster.

Posted over 12 years ago (0 comments)

Removing An Archform from the gateway to our demonstration site

After 3 months of labor and over 200 metric tons of earth bagging, it was time to put it all to the test and remove the supportive archform we had used in the construction.

Posted over 12 years ago (1 comments)

Looking Back at my first year in Al Baydha

One year of the project being on the ground.

Posted over 12 years ago (0 comments)

A Big Thank You to Greif.

The Al Baydha Project gets its first corporate sponsor.

Posted almost 13 years ago (0 comments)

Water System II: Evaporation and Um al Raka Dam.

Conventional dams are great at stopping flash floods but fail when it comes to water storage.

Posted about 13 years ago (1 comments)

Al Baydha Water System, Part 1: Flash Floods.

the first part in a comprehensive look at a water system for greening the Saudi desert.

Posted about 13 years ago (0 comments)

Project Website Now Live

Come learn more about the Al Baydha Project at www.albaydha.org

Posted about 13 years ago (1 comments)

Al Baydha Project Youtube Channel

The Al Baydha Project has a youtube channel with over a dozen videos, ranging from an introduction to early project demonstration site scans.

Posted about 13 years ago (0 comments)
Courses Taught Here!
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Rural Residential Demonstration Educational
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