Permaculture Technology: Greening the Desert

Greening the Desert Project: Jordan September 2018

Geoff Lawton (2018)

Film Review

This short video is a brief update of the Greening the Desert project Australian permaculture guru started in 2010 in the Dead Sea Valley in Jordan. His goal is to demonstrate the success of permaculture techniques in restoring barren desert to food production with minimal irrigation

As Lawton describes in the video, he began by planting native spiky acacia to condition the sandy soil and produce a continuous supply of mulch. He then added a series of legume, mulch producing and fruit trees. The legume trees add nitrogen to the soil while the mulch producing trees are an ongoing source of carbon. All are an essential source of shade to prevent water loss in the dry season (there is no rain at all between March and September).

In addition to trees, the project employs reed beds to recycle waste water from hygiene, laundry and dishwashing and passion fruit and Singapore daisy vines for additional shade and ground cover.

Workers are already harvesting dates (date palms help fix soil phosphate) and guava from the food forest Lawton helped them create. They will harvest their first citrus crops at the end of winter. They have also planted olive, pomegranate, papaya, kumquat and neem trees. The highlight of the film is when Lawton discovers a snail (which only breed in damp conditions) in a neem tree.

Workers have just planted their veggie garden in anticipation of rain over the winter months.

The winter rain will be collected in rain tanks and swales.* In addition the compound harvests municipal tap water, delivered a few hours a day three times a week. They also have water tanked in for drinking, hygiene, laundry and dishwashing, which they recycle through the reed beds.

They only use irrigation to start their veggie seedlings.

Four years ago Lawton proposed a similar solution for southern California, but local officials have yet to adopt his recommendations: A Natural Solution to Drought

3 thoughts on “Permaculture Technology: Greening the Desert

  1. Thanks for sharing, Dr. Bramhall. Lawton’s project and others like it are invaluable in showing us the way to overcome growing drought conditions in many parts of the globe. I was hoping to see an aerial view of the project that shows the contrast with the surrounding landscape.

    He uses an irrigation system of water delivered from a local source. What happens when there is no water supply available?

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  2. This was one of those hand held low-budget projects, Rosaliene. I agree an aerial view would have been very impressive. When there’s no “mains” water available, they pay for a tanker to bring it in just like the rest of Jordan. I have been watching Lawton’s videos for 10 years now and have my own mini-food forest in my backyard. Our region is affected by drought during the summer and I have just added some swales (and a gray water system) owing to the local watering restrictions.

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