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3 years, No Rain, A Saudi Permaculture Project...

 
George Meljon
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Location: Southern Indiana zone 5b
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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C1_ImV8U6Lk



The Al Baydha Project is documenting a very promising permaculture design implementation on you tube. This latest video shows what happens after their first rain in 3 years, one which will feed the trees that are planted there for 6 years. Really quality stuff to couple with geoff lawton's work in Jordan. The vision is to bring rainfall in the area back to multiple times per year. The man speaks perfect english and is very well versed in permaculture design concepts. Enjoy!

Edit: please move to whatever forum would be appropriate if this is not, oops!
 
Darin Kirschbaum
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Beautiful and inspiring. I love seeing earthworks full of water after a rain, and in the desert even more so. Please post pictures/video of the rest of the site and let us know what's been going on there for the duration of the project. Was that an olive you were holding up?
 
Ce Rice
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That is pretty cool.

Will be nice to see a 1, 2 and 5 year progress. I wish them success and hope they get at least an annual rainfall for the next few years!
 
Jen Shrock
pollinator
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You can learn more about the project at http://www.permacultureglobal.com/projects/286-al-baydha-project
 
Paulo Bessa
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Beautiful!!!

And so great example. This together with the Jordan's Lawton project, are two great examples of Permaculture in the desert.
Its the way to go after.

I want to ask a question, perhaps someone knows how to answer:

How large does a desert area need to be cover with forest, in order to promote local thunderstorm production?
I am very curious to know how many ha or square km/miles it needs.
 
John Elliott
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There is a word for this - "reversing the cycle of desertification". It's "oasification", taken from the Spanish oasificación, meaning to turn a desert into an oasis. There is a research effort going on at the University of Valladolid in Spain where they study groundwater movement and how to retain it, which is quite timely, since climate change is bringing a dryer future to Spain.

What's interesting to note in this video is that there are quite a few desert trees uphill from where they built their catchment berm when the camera pans back toward the mountains. That is probably what led them to place the berm where they did, since trees like that need some source of groundwater, like the infrequent rains.

Paulo, to answer your question, I think it takes tens of square kilometers of water evaporation to initiate a thunderstorm, but on the smaller scale even the microclimate of a clump of trees can provide enough transpiration to increase the amount of precip in a small area during an individual thunderstorm. The former measurement of thunderstorm formation is something that can be observed by aerial or satellite measurements, while the latter measurement can be done by comparing point measurements close to trees with ones in places that there are no trees.
 
Michael Cox
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Location: Kent, UK - Zone 8
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I've read a bit about this project - the area used to be well treed and a major industry was cutting and supplying firewood for nearby cities. Clearing and overgrazing led to their current predicament.

There are other videos from the project on YouTube, including an excellent one walking through their series of on contour stone walls (basically very low gabions) that narrows down to a gully, where they have constructed much larger, heavier gabions from local stone mostly using hand labour. One small rain event deposited noticeable amounts of sediment upstream of each little check dam and on one larger gabion nearly a meter of sand and silt was deposited after one rain storm.

Importantly they started from the very top of the watershed, slowing and sinking the flow so that it doesn't have a chance to reach destructive speeds.
 
George Meljon
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Location: Southern Indiana zone 5b
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John, I'm not sure but I think the trees up hill are on contour swales.
 
Neal Spackman
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Location: Makkah, Saudi Arabia
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Hey folks,

I'm the one who made this video and running the permaculture/construction aspects of this project--we had another thread going in the greening the desert part of the forum, but I'm happy to talk about what we're doing out here.

Neal
 
Neal Spackman
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Location: Makkah, Saudi Arabia
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Darin Kirschbaum wrote:Beautiful and inspiring. I love seeing earthworks full of water after a rain, and in the desert even more so. Please post pictures/video of the rest of the site and let us know what's been going on there for the duration of the project. Was that an olive you were holding up?


Hi Darin--that's not an olive; it's a jujube (zizyphus spinachristi). The fruit tastes good, the leaves are good fodder, the wood is used for construction in Yemen, and it's a nitrogen fixer. One of the best trees i know of for our climate.

Neal
 
George Meljon
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Location: Southern Indiana zone 5b
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Neal, I admire your work. How deep are the aquifers there? When you state you have enough water from the rain to last 6 years, how is that possible?
 
Neal Spackman
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Location: Makkah, Saudi Arabia
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George Meljon wrote:Neal, I admire your work. How deep are the aquifers there? When you state you have enough water from the rain to last 6 years, how is that possible?


Hi George,

We drilled a well at the lower end of our site and hit water at 120 meters. At that level, pressure was good enough to bring standing water level (in the well) up to 40 meters. In terms of water catchment, it's pretty simple--I can calculate the volume of water caught in our earthworks based on the height of the water level left on our swales and on the lower end of the berm, and then calculate irrigation needs for our trees. Currently we're irrigating at about 20 liters per tree per week (slightly more for the ones we put in this year, slightly less for the ones we did last year). So I have about 3.5 kilometers of swales, at 2.5 meters wide at the base, and then I look at how deep the water was from the rainfall and know how much rain I caught, and then I can do the same thing with the berm. At the berm, our volume was 60 meters x 240 meters x 1.10 meters, and then i just do the volume based on a triangle. Between our swales and the berm, we caught about 13.5 million liters of water, which is currently soaking down into our ground water. I treat that like a bank account, and I just got a big deposit. I make small withdrawals twice a week for drip irrigation, at a rate of 20 liters per tree per week. That adds up to 2,080,000 liters per year. Now for some caveats:

1: Yes we will have lost some water to evaporation; the water stood for 3 days and that little stream ran for 2.5 days. During that week temperatures never rose over 80 F and wind was typical--I didn't do an evaporation pan to measure what ours was, but look at #2.

2: I am not counting all the water on the outside of the berm that you see in the video, even though it also will have sunk into the same aquifer we're taking our well water from. That potentially adds another couple million liters, but I'm focused on what we can catch and keep inside the site.

3: I am pretending as if 1 and 2 balance each other out, but eventually, as our flora increases, our soil biota develops, and we get better tree cover, and wind break, our evaporation is going to drop drastically, and our water retention capability will increase, and that is the primary water goal.
 
Jennifer Wadsworth
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Hi Neal:

I know a lot of people in drylands tend to plant trees "in" swales or infiltration basins as opposed to on either side (back cut or berm). Do you do this? Why or why not?

What other anti-evaporation methods do you employ?

Here in Phoenix, our climate is somewhat similar to the area you're in near Mekka - so I am most curious!


 
Neal Spackman
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Location: Makkah, Saudi Arabia
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Jennifer Wadsworth wrote:Hi Neal:

I know a lot of people in drylands tend to plant trees "in" swales or infiltration basins as opposed to on either side (back cut or berm). Do you do this? Why or why not?

What other anti-evaporation methods do you employ?



I don't see any advantage to planting within the swale, and i see some disadvantages. First, my swales run north to south (generally) and planting in the middle offers a lot less shade cover than planting both sides, both in the short and long run. The roots of my trees will get to a minimum of 30 feet, so i don't think they get the water any better by being planted inside.

Another advantage i see to planting on the sides of the swales is more options for swale furniture--i'm going to be digging some rather deep holes and filling with large rocks as a way to better infiltrate rainfall over the next summer. Swale furniture is harder to do if your trees are in the middle.

Finally, i like the idea of trellising between trees--i'm going to be using a bitter melon called http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Momordica_charantia Karela as a trellised vine over the swale, and that'll allow us to do two layers of planting--vine over the top and then something underneath inside the swale, in between the trees.

Other anti-evaporation methods we're using are pretty standard:

rock mulch
compost mulch
wind break
ground cover
continual increase of tree cover.
 
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