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Project Wadi Attir

A Model Sustainable Desert Community 

As a part of its Blueprint Negev program and its work with Bedouin communities in Israel’s southern region, JNF announces a new partnership with a uniquely innovative initiative -- Project Wadi Attir.

Located near the Bedouin town of Hura, Project Wadi Attir seeks to develop and demonstrate a model for sustainable, community-based agricultural enterprise, adapted to a desert environment. It is designed to combine Bedouin aspirations, values and experience with sustainability principles, modern day science and cutting edge technologies. The project was initiated in order to showcase a breakthrough approach to environmentally-sound sustainable development. It will make a real difference locally and will serve as a model for arid regions in other parts of the world.

At its core, the project involves raising a mixed herd of sheep and goats for organic meat and dairy products. It will also include cultivation of desert medicinal plants that have been valued by generations of Bedouin for their health benefits and the development of a line of healing and body care products. In addition, the project will  re-introduce nutritious, desert hardy, indigenous vegetables which once formed an important part of the Bedouin diet. These native vegetables will be grown on the site, a seed bank will be established to preserve this precious genetic material and a women-led program will be launched to help spread the cultivation of native vegetable gardens on family managed plots.

The site will also function as a research and learning center and as an ongoing source of empowerment and training for surrounding communities. A visitor’s center will include an exhibition area, lecture hall, laboratories, offices and class rooms, and a restaurant and gift shop to promote Bedouin hospitality, culture, local crafts, and the farm’s agricultural products.

The project is designed to realize essential sustainability principles in its approach to natural, human, social, manufactured and financial resources. This means a commitment to producing positive economic results, enriching the life and well being of the community, ensuring the highest resource productivity, enhancing local biodiversity, and preventing adverse impacts on the environment.

To minimize its ecological footprint and to ensure the most efficient use of resources, a basic concept of Project Wadi Attir is that byproducts of one activity will be available as resources for another activity through an integrated, closed loop system of use, reuse, and recycling. The project will aim for carbon neutrality by minimizing harmful emissions and through a program of extensive planting. It will employ cutting edge approaches to renewable energy production, resource recycling, water management and arid land stewardship. Building design will feature “green” technologies appropriate for arid zone conditions.

Project Wadi Attir has been recently established as an agricultural cooperative, the first of this kind for the Bedouin community. At all stages of developing the project, strong emphasis has been put on community participation and values, commitment by individuals to each others and care of the environment. Job opportunities, employment for women and local capacity building, are primary goals. With time, the cooperative will encourage participation by new individuals, as well as whole communities, who could join as providers or consumers of products and services or, as full members.

The project is a joint initiative of the Hura Municipal Council and the New York based Sustainability Laboratory. Since its inception the project has inspired an unusually diverse collaboration between individuals, groups and various organizations representing key sectors of Israeli society. These include members of the Bedouin community, local non-profit organizations, kibbutzim, academic research centers, professional organizations, government agencies, and private sector companies. 

The project is in an advanced stage of planning, with the statutory approval process well underway and implementation scheduled to begin early next year. JNF has launched a campaign to raise one million dollars, towards making this exciting undertaking a reality

Pictured above: Russell Robinson, JNF’s CEO and members of the project team surveying the project’s site. From left to right: Dr. Mohammed Alnabari, Dr.Shaher El-Meccawi, Russell Robinson, Dr. Michael Ben-Eli, Yones Nabari, and Ali Alhawashleh.

 

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