editor’s noteL The Jordan Times has been running a series of articles promoting biosaline agriculture – agriculture that requires less water and can tolerate high heat. They are grouped below.

From law to biosaline agriculture, Turman challenges coventional farming techniques – Jordan Times

By Reem Rawashdeh – Jan 03,2019

AMMAN — For Odeh Al Turman, a man in his 60s, reaching the age of retirement was not the end of the road. Instead, it was the beginning of a new journey; a new career he has always dreamt of.

Turman, who hails from Al Khalidiyeh, 20km from the centre of Mafraq Governorate in the east of Jordan, used to be an attorney.

Two years ago, he decided to leave the marble floors of the court to stand tall on the soil and toil on the land.

He started out growing green produce at first, but ended up incurring great losses two seasons ago, when he began growing tomatoes and other conventional crops, he told The Jordan Times.

Following a season of loss, he decided to pay a visit to the town’s agricultural station, which is affiliated with the National Centre for Agricultural Research to inquire about “fish farming”.

Contrary to what one would think, farming fish in the desert can be quite lucrative, which is what Turman set out to do, until he was faced with an entire world of new possibilities; biosaline agriculture.

According to Turman, it was the scarcity of water and the high levels of salinity (salt concentration) that drove him to consider fish farming at first.

“I went to ask about fish farming at the Khalidiyeh station… [but] after I sat down with the agricultural engineers there, they talked me into trying something new, that comes at a low cost, and that is a profitable investment,” he said in reference to biosaline farming.

They suggested growing barley, wheat and oat, but only through biosaline agricultural techniques can it work, given the salinity of the soil and water, he continued to explain.

Notably, biosaline agriculture is a farming technique launched by the International Centre For Biosaline Agriculture (ICBA), in cooperation with the National Centre for Agricultural Research in Jordan.

It is based on growing salt-tolerant plants and halophytes that can tolerate a high level of both salinity and temperatures.

The idea itself comes from nature; specifically from the fact that salt-tolerant plants grow naturally on beaches, sea tide areas, playa lakes (or sabkha) and other areas covered by saline water.

The salinity of the Zarqa underground water basin — the source of water for Turman’s crops — rises in the summer to 2000 parts per million (ppm) and falls to 1500ppm in winter.

It was all sorted out for Turman there and then, he said.

“I walked out fully convinced of the idea, and I promised to come back a few days later for the seeds, to go ahead with the project, towards the end of 2017,” Turman noted.

According to the lawyer-now-farmer, sowing and prepping one dunum of land to grow vegetables used to cost him JD200 to JD300, including the costs for seed sowing, water installations and other preparations.

When it came to growing salt-tolerant plants, however, the costs of sowing and preparations, per dunum, dropped to no more than JD120, which is drastic in business terms, he underlined.

Although Turman was late in catching up on the biosaline agricultural season, he managed to sow around 15 dunums of his land with super germinating (fast-sprouting) seeds that he had acquired from the National Agricultural Research Centre for free, he said.

As his sons took photos of him amid the spikes of wheat, ready for harvest, he said: “Now, I will invest the returns from these 15 dunums to prepare and treat another 100 dunums.”

“This does not require much thought,” he said, “especially after the massive losses I incurred with conventional vegetable farming”.

One obstacle down, Turman still has to overcome a few more, regarding the overhead costs of labour and harvest.

“The only hurdle that still worries me is the lack of harvest and sowing machinery,” he highlighted.

Workers refuse to work small plots of land, he said, and would rather work on large lands, which adds to the costs of harvest, Turman explained.

“I would be better off without such expenses,” he said.

“If only I were able to secure the machinery, I would be ready for the coming season of 100 new dunums,” he concluded.


Southern Badia pioneer inspires farmers in neighbouring areas – Jordan Times

By Reem Rawashdeh – Jan 05,2019

AMMAN — For many years, the ruthless desert-like climate of the Husseinyieh area, in the Southern Badia district, used to push farmers and inhabitants away.

The land, barren, yellow and deserted, is acutely scarce of water, residents complained.

After many years of service in the army, 50- year-old Hamad Thiabat Al Jazi works with the Ministry of Water and Irrigation.

Returning to the land of his father was Jazi’s goal, he disclosed to The Jordan Times.

Under the bedouin resettlement project, engineered to encourage nomadic tribes to settle down and pursue a life of agriculture, Jazi’s father first started sowing the land decades ago.

Now, Jazi continues to build on his father’s legacy with success and plenty.

“Several years ago, I attended a field tour at Al Shobak Station, a National Centre for Agricultural Research affiliate, organised in cooperation with the International Centre of Biosaline Agriculture [ICBA]. It was then when I was first introduced to the new techniques,” Jazi said.

Notably, the Husseinyieh area suffers from both water scarcity and high soil salinity, he confirmed.

“At the beginning, I thought to try the new biosaline agricultural techniques on my own land. So, I planted 2 dunums with alfalfa and barley. By the end of the season, the harvest brought us enough ‘rejuvenating seeds’ to plant another 30 dunums, the next season,” Jazi said.

Jazi started working in the cooperative agricultural sector around two decades ago.

The agricultural pioneer, who is bringing back agriculture to the area where he lives, is also continuing in his father’s footsteps, running the bedouin resettlement project that he started in 1970.

On the one hand, the project resulted in a transformation, which urbanised parts of the Husseinyeh area, turning it into a residential area.

Dozens of residents are now working in agriculture, especially biosaline, which is a farming technique, launched by the ICBA in cooperation with the International Centre for Agricultural Research in Jordan.

The technique is based on planting crops and plants that can tolerate both high levels of salinity and temperature.

Many of the 17,000 residents there, according to the figures of the Jordan Department of Statistics, are shifting their attention to animal feed (fodder) agriculture.

A significant amount of them are now relying on biosaline agriculture techniques that make use of high water salinity, instead of the conventional methods that require non-saline water.

Since he hit jackpot around three years ago, he encouraged dozens of his district residents to return to farming their lands.

The area was plagued by negligence, as many land owners leased out their lands to people who gave no regard to the local infrastructure, Jazi complained.

As a result, he said, “people started investing in their own lands and taking care of their farming plots themselves, by working the lands themselves”.

“My experience with biosaline agriculture inspired them. Now, they are happy, and none of them are leasing out their land to others or deserting it. They learnt a harsh lesson neglecting their lands and renting them out,” he added.

“Organising field tours helps promote the biosaline agricultural technique, as they can see the new method in action,” Jazi said, pointing out that it is suitable for the area’s nature and climate.

The technique does not only “work”, according to Jazi.

“It doubled the harvest of fodder land plots; I even gave other farmers, within the Tal Barma agricultural project I am running, some of the seeds from my first biosaline harvest. That is on top of the 30 dunums I sowed for the second season.”

In fact, Jazi’s success did not only encourage his own townsmen, but has helped spread the techniques to nearby areas, like Al Jafar.

As he browsed photos of his yields, ready for harvest, Jazi said one of his daughters has decided to study agricultural engineering and specialise in soil and water, to assist in the investment and expansion of biosaline agriculture to other, bigger plots.

It is a lucrative investment, he noted.

“The harvest of biosaline farms is around 40 per cent more than the harvests of conventional farming,” he concluded.

Biosaline agriculture is spreading across several governorates in Jordan, especially in water-scarce areas suffering from rainfall fluctuation and water exhaustion from various domestic and agricultural uses.



Biosaline agriculture helps pioneering farmers overcome challenges of irrigation with treated sewage water – Jordan Times

By Reem Rawashdeh – Jan 06,2019

AMMAN — It is not a secret that Jordan suffers from water scarcity; more so with the change in climate and rainfall fluctuations over the past years.

Jordanians who rely on farming and grazing cattle for a living are doubly affected by it, as it drives soil and water salinity (salt concentration) levels through the roof.

Needless to say, this harms crops and affects the yield of farming plots, especially in the more arid regions of Jordan, which are also more affected by the change in climate than other parts of the country.

Farmers there already find trouble supplying their plots with water, as it is for the countless who reside in these areas, like 30-year-old Mohammad Al Fayaz, who until recently was faced with the same problem.

After years of law school, Fayez decided to take on farming, alongside his father and brother on their land.

In part, Fayez is driven by the endeavour to maintain the green in their village, Umm Rummaneh, in the Jiza District, south of Amman.

But, “farming is the main source of income” for Fayez and his family, he told The Jordan Times.

“The university degree, which my father made sure that my siblings and I earned, was meant as a means of security —a backup plan if you will— that may come in handy some day,” he added.

“My village, Umm Rummaneh, is the only village in Jiza that has no natural reservoirs of groundwater. We drilled three wells, but to no avail,” he said. That was more than 10 years ago, he noted.

But failure did not mean the end for Fayez and family.

“Failure at one thing could mean the start of a more successful venture,” he said.

And his father’s love for land had not changed, despite the challenges and the lack of access to groundwater.

Determined to work the land, “we shifted our attention to the ‘Jiza historic pool’ to get water and irrigate dozens of dunums of peach and apricot crops”, he explained.

“My father suggested to the village leaders that we make use of the pool to irrigate 30 dunums of fruit trees, especially since it usually floods with rainwater. In fact, it was becoming a health and environmental hazard [the pool of stagnant water],” Fayez underscored.

For 10 years, farmers in the village used the pool water for irrigation, he said, that is, until they ran into trouble with the Greater Amman Municipality.

As a result, the farmers were no longer able to get the water from the pool, which put them in a difficult situation.

The land became arid once again, after the 30-dunum plot was cleared of trees, Fayez continued.

“Early in 2016, with the implementation of the water treatment station project near Al Jizah, we learned that we can use the water coming from the station,” he said.

It was at the workshop organised by the International Centre for Biosaline Agriculture, in cooperation with the National Centre for Research and Agricultural Guidance, that Fayez was introduced to the concept of biosaline agriculture, a technique that helps overcome high soil and water salinity challenges.

It relies on growing salt-tolerant crops and fodder, which in Fayez’s case was imperative to the process, as his crops were irrigated with water from the station — treated water.

“We drew a 14-kilometre pipeline from the station, to a 5-dunum agricultural pool in our land,” he said.

Treated waste and sewage water poses no harm to the environment or the people, and can be used for the irrigation of certain crops, mainly fodder.

However, growing fodder crops with a reliance on the station’s supply of water required a different technique, and this is where biosaline farming comes in.

Armed with the new biosaline agricultural technique on one hand, and the water from the station on the other, Fayez and his family ended up sowing 100 dunums, instead of just their own 30.

Now, the challenge was to preserve the land’s ownership and ensure fodder self-sufficiency for the family’s cattle.

This was the third harvest season of fodder grown on treated water, using biosaline techniques.

“Our fodder, including alfalfa, oats, corn and herbs, has landed in the silos and is ready to be sold in the local market,” he said, “and the returns of the venture are promising”.

As a result of their success, other farmers in the village are preparing their lands for fodder crops, with a reliance on the station’s treated water.

It worked, Fayez said.

The harvest was increased and the land is cultivated throughout most of the year, he continued.

At the same time, it also changed the ideas about using treated water for irrigation, he highlighted.

Meanwhile, this project, which is part of the Bayt Al Khair Society’s efforts to support fodder farming, had other holistic societal implications — positive ones.

It led to infrastructural improvements throughout the village, as new roads were opened for farmers to easily access their lands, and it drove the expansion of the power grid in the area to include newly chartered areas.

More so, treated water irrigation is becoming more popular with every success, as farmers in nearby villages begin to learn from their neighbours.

“I have taken a chance on using biosaline agriculture to grow fodder crops on treated water; I invested hundreds of thousands of dinars in this, and it paid off,” Fayez concluded.

“There is no life without adventure, and I knew where this one would take me.”