Jordan’s watershed restoration program

A vallerani water harvesting pit during the rainy season

With financial support from the United States Forest Service, ICARDA worked with the Service's SEED project and Jordan's National Center for Agricultural Research and Extension (NCARE) to counter the increasingly poor outputs of the area - both in terms of the goods and services provided by the degradation of the area and the poverty of its citizenry.

The Jordan Badia is a vulnerable region that has suffered from a combination of land mismanagement, overgrazing, and aggravated droughts and erratic rainfalls due to climate change. The latter, and the resulting erosion and run-off, have also affected the livestock and farming practices of the area’s native Bedouin and thus the area’s food security.

To counter the increasingly poor outputs of the area — both in terms of the goods and services provided by the degradation of the area and the poverty of its citizenry — ICARDA worked with Jordan’s National Center for Agricultural Research and Extension (NCARE) and the United States Forest Service (SEED project). 

Agency scientists coordinated with local groups, which included young men from the local Majidyya community — who engaged in the out-planting fieldwork — and a women’s collective from Mafraq, whose nursery provided the seedling shrubs. A 25 ha watershed was targeted, with 3,500 native shrub seedlings. The latter form the base of ‘vegetation islands’ of native shrub species that can better sustain not only animal fodder but also increase biodiversity and provide local herbs used by the local population.

Sustainable agro-economic methods

The Vallerani system uses a special plow that breaks up crusted soil layers to create ‘micro-catchments’ that harvest water run-off and protect shrub seedlings. The method’s water retention benefits also lessen potential drought damage during the initial planting period.

Oversight of the fields and their security continued after project implementation, undertaken by young men from Majidyya. In conjunction with other partners, ICARDA continues to investigate the long-term benefits of such eco-system restoration and sustainability projects: it is jointly conducting a photogrammetry study with Utrecht University to observe Vallerani structure development over time; and conducting a Rangeland Hydrology and Erosion Model (RHEM) study with scientists from the University of Nevada and the ARS Great Basin Rangelands Research Unit. Both aim to continue discussions with local governments and communities to ensure that the Badia sustains an ecologically viable agro-economic system for the land and its inhabitants.