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Water Wise Women of Jordan

by Brad Lancaster 

Jordan Valley, Jordan, 2009

One day my guides Mohammed Ayesh of NCARE and Iqbal of JOHUD took me to an oasis.

The village we were in was strewn with garbage, and the soil was bare and severely eroded. Houses were made from concrete brick and whatever materials could be scavenged. Then we saw the oasis: an island of green bursting from the yard’s pallet fence.

A living oasis of green amidst bare soil

This oasis is one of the gardens and orchards planted and maintained by Basma, a Water Wise Woman. Basma was trained in water harvesting, water conservation, composting, gardening, marketing of produce, etc. As with all the Water Wise Women, she now trains other women in her village to spread the knowledge. She has implemented two gardens and orchards that produce half of the family’s food and provide gifts to spread throughout the community. Rainwater, greywater, and municipal water are used for irrigation. Manure from village livestock and home compost are used to fertilize soils.

The entrance to Basma’s garden and orchard

I see this as a regenerative investment. Her garden would generally be considered generative, since although it produces an abundance of resources, it would not make it without Basma. But since Basma is training others, they could take over the garden maintenance or create new gardens of their own. If the project succeeds in the long term it will change the local culture. Once it becomes a part of the local culture, it will be a regenerative success, because the planters and stewards of gardens and water will continually be regenerated through the village customs and practices. The garden will then generate other resources, while the garden culture also regenerates the garden via ongoing maintenance and the creation other gardens like it.

Basma has used knowledge of water harvesting, composting, gardening, and other skills to create an oasis in a desert, and teaches other women how to do the same.

This program has wisely focused on women. Here in Jordan they are the direct caretakers of the home and all things food. Thus the garden is a natural extension of existing local practices.

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