In this episode I sit down with the near legendary Neal Spackman.
Neal talks about his work on large scale reforestation on the Arabian Peninsula with the Al Baydha project, and how to increase rainfall using in desert environments. The Al Baydha project lies in an area receiving 0-2 inches of rainfall annually. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia brought Neal in to help establish a productive Permaculture system in this hyper-arid environment in an effort to settle nomadic Bedouin populations in an economically and ecologically sustainable way.
More on Al Baydha:
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.
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.
- News & Politics