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New technology helps vulnerable villagers whilst protecting natural reserve
Small shrubs pepper an arid landscape of steep, sandy mountain slopes, where water is scarce and the sandy soil barren. On the edge of the Wadi Mujib Biosphere Reserve in Jordan, people live a traditional pastoral lifestyle below the poverty line. With livestock-keeping their main, or only, source of income, the conditions mean the 8,000 villagers of Faqou struggle to give their sheep the nutrition they need. Their care of their livestock leads to overgrazing in the Reserve, which supports a surprising variety of plant species including rare orchids, and several highly-adapted mammals including a threatened large wild mountain goat, the Nubian Ibex.
Imagine, then, a solution that allows people to grow cheap fresh green feed for their livestock in just seven days, all year round. Is there an innovative agricultural solution that takes little space, uses water efficiently, does not degrade the soil, uses no pesticides, improves food security, adjusts to climate change, improves people’s livelihoods and relieves pressure on nearby reserves so nature can flourish too? Yes, it is called a ‘green fodder unit’.
Where: Faqou village and Wadi Mujib Biosphere Reserve, Jordan
Key species: Nubian Ibex Capra nubiana, 43 rare plant species
Project partner: Sustainable Development of Agricultural Resources (SDAR)
What is green fodder technology?
› Fodder - Food given specifically to livestock, rather than foraging for themselves.
› Green Fodder - Fresh green vegetation for livestock, rich in minerals and protein, as opposed to the expensive dry feed that herders would have to buy and import when they cannot produce fodder on their land.
› Hydroponic Green Fodder unit - A method of growing green fodder in water without soil, using mineral nutrient solutions, and taking up little space as an indoor unit stacks green fodder horizontally. Electricity for lights is provided by solar panels on the roof of the unit.
A pilot green fodder unit was installed by SDAR working with the sheep farmers of Faqou’s Agricultural Cooperative Association, and has proved very successful. The ownership of the unit was transferred to the association, and, despite difficult early stages where locals were hesitant to buy fodder produced by this new technology, sheep farmers continue to purchase the green fodder rather than grazing on the reserve.
Pilot green fodder unit produces 0.5 ton of green fodder per round, sufficient to feed 200-220 goats using only 100 litres of water per month (recycled for a period of one month).
It is estimated that this saves up to 10 hectares of grazing land on the reserve in the first year.
› Hydroponic green fodder unit installed, which produces fodder reliably throughout the year with very low running costs.
› The unit consumes minimal water, generates minimal pollution, and saves soil degradation.
› Green fodder production saves vertical space.
› Workshops were held to ensure local people fully understood the benefits and were on board with the project, so sheep farmers bought this fodder.
› Ownership of the unit transferred to the local cooperative, so they sell green fodder at a price beneficial to the sheep farmers, and improving income and living conditions.
› Fodder of high nutritional quality produced, allowing for increase numbers of livestock per family, so better production of meat, milk and other products.
› Grazing pressure on the reserve relieved, and minimal impact on biodiversity, as opposed to traditional fodder production.
As well as promoting ‘community management’ of a new resource, the project has also raised villagers’ awareness of Wadi Mujib and its unique nature, and the impacts of the different choices they can make when feeding their livestock.
“Now people realise the importance of the flora and fauna around them, and we see this technology expanding to other sensitive areas in the Middle East.”
Rami El-Akhras, SDAR
Rami El-Akhras | email@example.com | firstname.lastname@example.org
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The Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF) is a joint initiative of l’Agence Française de Développement (AFD), Conservation International (CI), the European Union, the Global Environment Facility (GEF), the Government of Japan, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, and the World Bank. Additional support in the Mediterranean Basin is provided by the MAVA Foundation. More information on CEPF can be found at www.cepf.net
A fundamental goal is to ensure civil society is engaged in biodiversity conservation.
CEPF is more than just a funding provider
A dedicated Regional Implementation Team (RIT) (expert officers on the ground) guides funding to the most important areas and to even the smallest of organisations, helps build civil society in the region, and shares learned lessons and best practices. In the Mediterranean Basin Biodiversity Hotspot, the RIT is entrusted to BirdLife International, including its Middle East office and the BirdLife Partners DOPPS/BirdLife Slovenia and LPO/BirdLife France.