By Hana Namrouqa

AMMAN – A farm in the Mujib Biosphere Reserve has started producing organic crops and herbs with the aim of providing a model that encourages water-efficient techniques and the use of chemical-free fertilisers in agriculture.

Spread over 10 dunums, the model farm is cultivating medicinal herbs and vegetables, and is considered a source of income for several families in the area.

The idea of establishing a model farm in the Mujib Biosphere Reserve came after conservationists noticed a decline in the quality and quantity of water in the area, home to several streams and springs.

The farm was established under the Integrated Management of Water Sources in Mujib Nature Reserve Project, which is implemented by the Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature.

“Water resources in the reserve face many challenges, mainly because farmers are applying agricultural methods that heavily depend on the use of chemical pesticides,” project coordinator, Ehab Eid, said.

In addition to the use of pesticides, pumping is causing water levels in Mujib to decrease which negatively impacts the unique species and ecosystem in the area, he warned.

Covering an area of 220 square kilometres, the Mujib Biosphere Reserve is home to seasonal and permanent rivers that flow through several valleys, enabling the arid area to support diverse ecosystems and providing vital water sources for the shrinking Dead Sea.

The complex drainage system in the reserve is characterised by three large catchments: Wadi Mujib, Wadi Hidan and Wadi Zarqa Main, with permanent water flow throughout the year.

Eid underscored that the establishment of the farm, which generates agricultural produce without using chemicals or consuming large amounts of water, is designed to raise the awareness among farmers in the area of the need to use environment-friendly methods to prevent contamination and depletion of Mujib water.

Natural water flow in Mujib’s wadis helps plants prosper and attracts birds to nest near the area. In addition, there are several fish species which only exist in the Mujib area, according to conservationists.

They warned that diversion of streams feeding the valley to dams drives away birds and threatens the survival of indigenous fish species in Mujib.