Farm visits

Salam, Lydia, also known as ´the agronomist´ is writing here. As I have a passion for agriculture I am really interested in the practical Jordanian food production which made me end up here at the Jordan Peace Valley. Just a warning: in the following I will elaborate on the agricultural tasks here on the farm and an overview of the farms I had the opportunity to visit in the area.

For those who do not know about the scale of Mohammed’s farm, it is a rather small organic dates, vegetables and beans producing farm. The last few days we all spent weeding the crops, as the rain is favouring the growth of khubeze and other weeds. Agriculture in Jordan is facing severe problems which can even lead to yield reductions of more than 50 per cent. The biggest issue is water scarcity. Therefore the competition for water is the main reason for dying plants.

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Whilst weeding I observed the difference in the root physiology between khubeze and tomatoes. Khubeze is rooting deeper and therefore advantaged in terms of water acquisition.

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Besides that I felt really satisfied saving the vegetables. However, khubeze is a weed suited for human consumption. Rich in iron and other health supporting compounds you can serve it like spinach or in a salad. As I am the hashtag-master I would consider that as a #peacefulpestcontrol. You free the vegetables and you can eat the weed.

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It is a pleasure to see them recovering and enjoying their space above and below ground and it is also great to prepare the khubeze together and enjoy the common enemy served with tomatoes. Okay, probably I start to bore you with my scientific rambling or you consider me crazy with my exaggerated excitation about weeds. So now another joyful event happening these days.

Helena, Mia and me had the opportunity to join the delegation of the majors of the Jordanian municipality of Shuneh and the Palestinian of Jericho on their tour around Shuneh. In order to make the two cities working closer together the agreement of twinning the two cities got signed yesterday. To celebrate this official collaboration and to introduce the neighbouring city local farms were visited.

First we got some refreshments at the King Abdullah Palace until we continued to the company Green Farmers. On 10 ha they produce a huge variety of herbs which get exported to the U.K and the Middle East. Under controlled atmosphere in highly technological greenhouses mint, dill, rosemary, parsley and tarragon and many other delicate herbs are growing. Jonathan Hanna, the quality manager told us that around 35% of the national basil market in the U.K is covered with his plants. Among the customers are supermarket chains like coop and Tesco.

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Next stop of our small agricultural excursion was the Farah Fish Farm. Leaded by the strong smell of fish and brackish water we made our way through the dry landscape. Having a look around, you would not expect fishes to live there as everything is sandy and stony. However, Ziad Atalla is running there successfully a fish farm producing more than 100 tons of sweet water fish annually.

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Nile tilapia and red tilapia are here bred, fed and later sold. The water which is not used anymore is eutrophicated (enriched with nutrients) and a suitable fertiliser for the farmers around. Ziad is providing it for free to the surrounding farmers with a pipeline. So you can call it a free-fertiliser-fountain.p1040422

The final destination was a date farm of Mahmood Abu Ayash, one of Mohammad’s friends who has 4200 date trees on 30 hectares. Mahmood is growing eight different date varieties. Majul is the most yielding crop with around 110 kg of fruits per year and tree.

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Children Of The Valley

Dear Blog!

Allow me today to introduce our volunteers, who are going to stay here at Mohammad’s (or also known as Abu Faris) “Children Of The Valley”-Farm, spending Christmas and New Year’s Eve together, weeding Weeds, sharing the Sharing-Tree and so on.

First there is Caro(l) from Brazil. We also call her “Crazy Capitalist Caro” as she reminds us and herself of Monica, a character in the sitcom “Friends” and also because she is always thinking about how to make the farm profitable. Caro is our gold piece, a real treasure as she is not only very effective in terms of organisation and cleaning but also fun, sweet and caring. We still try to figure out which of her spleens are due to her Italian and which to the Portuguese genes. From time to time she misses Brazilian food, but she will get it after having spent enough time in the middle-east, helping Syrian refugees as well as crazy people and animals of the farm. Since she was the first one arriving to Abu Faris’ farm she did her very best preparing day by day the arrival of the following volunteers…

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.. Starting with me, freak Fran(zi) vom Germany, who joined two weeks later the already well- practised team of Abu Faris’ and Monica. What can I tell you- the German soldier took the helm and since the beginning I tried hard to catch up with Caro in every way. Still try to figure out how to be first.

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1 week later on a rainy day (as usual when the volunteers arrive) we got support by Lydia, the second german soldier, I actually think she deserves maybe even more the honour of this title. Lydia knows not only how to explain agricultural processes in english AND dutch, she also told us- en passant- how the reflexion of the sun works on bright surfaces and how the amount of rain per year is calculated correctly. Whaaat? Give me a minute! Also she went to Iran before coming here!! I wanted to go there as well. Plus she’s the farm’s Instagram and Hashtag queen. I have the feeling I can learn a lot from her!

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Only one day later, Helena from Denmark arrived. Finally! Now the cold-blooded people were in the majority! I always admire people like Helena, as she already seems to know what she wants (in her early 20s and still being in a state of finishing her bachelor!). So first of all she’s travelling through the Middle-east, including Palestine and Jordan, which I just decided to do NOW and I’m 7 years older- how cool is she?! Second, Helena has been meditating for a while now. So today, after Mohammad went again live on Facebook during lunch she suggested to do silent half – days, which means that nobody talks during half a day. Let’s go for it! Love the idea of having a meditating buddy to charge my batteries.

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Last but not least Mia from the UK arrived in the evening. It’s so unfair, she talks such a nice English- what a privilege it must be to be born in the UK. You can start right a way with a second language, not wasting your time for learning English. Besides her language skills she is also a very interesting person I think. She already lived for a few months in China, had a boyfriend in Jerusalem and worked for half a year in India, trying to teach English to monks. Besides she is a professional piano player.

What a pleasure to meet all of you! In a few days we’re going to be even two more Children of the Valley.

Palestinian refugee camps in Jordan

Palestine and Jordan are not just regular neighbor countries: their history and their people are one, as I could read on the walls of Baqa’a refugee camp. The first Palestinian refugee camp was established in Jordan in 1948, after the Nakba, when the state of Israel was established. Back then, more than 700,000 Palestinians had to flee their homes and run somewhere safe. Some of them went to refugee camps in the West Bank, inside Palestine, but lots of families went to neighboring countries, like Egypt, Jordan and Syria.

The first camp created by the UN in Jordan was Zarqa, in Amman. We could notice it is a small camp as we walked through the streets. It was a Friday morning, so most people were in their houses with their families and the streets were taken by trash. “There is no garbage collection”, told us Husam, our “guide”. It seems like neither UNRWA nor the municipality are interested in taking good care of the camp.

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Who should be cleaning these streets: that’s the question!

Close to midday, as we were heading to Jabal el-Hussein camp, a few residents of Zarqa camp were demonstrating their solidarity to Syrian people trapped in Aleppo. As I saw many times during the time I was living in Palestine, the police was ready to “keep the order” and the atmosphere was tense. In the speaker, we could hear a young man saying “Syria and Jordan are one!”. It made me wonder how the Syrian refugee crisis might be awaking lots of sad memories about the Nakba and the Naksa that brought those families there in the first place…

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Residents of Zarqa demonstrate their solidarity towards their Syrian neighbors

Jabal el-Husseim camp was established in 1952, also to accommodate refugees from the 1948 war.

There are many issues to be solved in refugee camps, apart from how they look: low incomes, high unemployment rates, lack of space for housing and the list goes on. The problems faced by residents are very similar to those refugees living in camps in Palestine have.

Heading north, we arrived to Baqa’a camp, that looks more like a city than a refugee camp. With more than 100,000 people, it’s the biggest in Jordan. This camp was an “emergency solution” to accommodate refugees from the 1967 war (Six Day War), between Arab countries and Israel. Back then, Israel occupied the West Bank and the Gaza strip, which we call the Naksa. At the beginning, it hosted around 25,000 refugees, and it only got more and more crowded as the years went by.

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View from the Baqa’a refugee camp, north of Amman

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UNRWA school in Baqa’a camp. As it happens in Palestine, this UN agency provides education for Palestinians. 
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“One nation, not two nations”

Making a “tour” on refugee camps was an important step to understand more on Jordanian history and how the Palestinian struggle is disseminated after the diaspora. The ongoing Nakba is still affecting the refugees, no matter where they are living now. They are Palestinians, and their right to return to their homeland is undeniable. On the other hand, we could see that the hosting countries are still not taking responsibility for the well-being of refugees running from the war. Next time, we will go to Za’atari camp and try to talk to Syrian families.

As we drove back to the farm, all I could think is how countries receiving Syrian refugees will deal with the huge amount of families that don’t need just to be placed in temporary camps. They need assistance, jobs, opportunities. Most importantly, they need the international community by their side to reconstruct their home land after the war being over. Maybe it is also up to all of us, volunteers from different countries, to engage in favor of the refugees from the Middle East?

 

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Sitting on a chair at Peace Wadi, I ask you: what is Peace?

Road trip to Amman!

Ahlan-wa-sahlan to Amman, the capital of Jordan!

Yesterday, we had a great time going to Amman. It feels weird to leave the peacefulness of Peace Wadi and encounter the noise and chaos of a big city again. I was living in a small city on the West Bank for three months before coming to Jordan, and it was quiet. When I arrived here, I found even more quietness and peace. So my ears were surprised by the sounds of cars, horns and different voices!

Only 50 minutes separate us to the big city, so after a short road trip, we arrived there. It was my first time in Amman, and it was a happy surprise to discover how big it is!

Amman is an exciting place to be. I could see a city full of life, coffee shops, restaurants, art galleries, and so on. There are lots of commercial center and areas, but also the old neighborhoods with beautiful houses from the 60’s.

The blue sky contrasted with the bright colors of the skyscrapers, and the sun was magnificently shining up high.

 After driving through some of the most important streets and avenues, we went to the outskirts to have lunch. Mohammad Al-Masri, our host, was waiting for us with some delicious home made traditional Arabic food!

Mohammad was born in Nablus, north of the West Bank/Palestine. He turns out to be a very interesting man, full of stories! He told me how he left Palestine and went to the USA, where he graduated from UCLA. After that, he also lived in Iraq before coming to Amman.

He has three lovely sons, and lots of pictures around his apartment. He couldn’t have been a better host. He made himself some warak-dawali, grape leaves stuffed with seasoned rice, mutabal (eggplants with tahine, garlic and lemon), foul (beans with olive oil and sumac). We also found olives, fresh bread and some vegetables in our table! Sakhten!

After a short live-broadcasting on Facebook (if you missed it, you can watch it here in this link), we joined the table and talked for a pleasant while. Following our meal, there was hot tea and coffee to warm us. Amman is about ten degrees colder than our place in the Jordan Valley, and I recommend you to take a good coat with you when you go there!

We stopped at a few shops before coming back to Peace Wadi, to try to find some items we can’t find in South Shuneh.

This was an amazing day. Thank you so much to Mohammad for hosting us with such delicious food at his place!

Ilhamdulilah! 

Meeting at Princess Basma Community Development Center

Yesterday was a busy day for me and Abu Farez! We visited the Princess Basma Community Development Center (CDC) in South Shuneh, located a few kilometers from Peace Wadi. There are many projects involving locals, and we saw people from all ages there!

One of the projects is called Makani: refugee children attend different classes. They are aged from 5 to 14 years old and normally don’t go to regular schools because they lack Jordanian ID. There are two rooms where they have English, Arabic, Maths and life skills lessons. I was guided by Ai’sha in the CDC, and as she was showing me the empty and colorful rooms, I could imagine the sound of children in my mind. Ai’sha told me there are 10 disabled children in the region, and they go to the center occasionally as well.

As small kitchen is the place where two women cook some Jordanian snacks and specialties, and sell them for the community.

I saw some young teenagers going out of the CDC with cleaning material, and Ai’sha explained me they participate on a program called Mubadera. The boys volunteer to clean the neighborhood of CDC.

The UNHCRH is also implicated in the CDC, funding the meals of some children.

Another project is a private primary school for kids from 4 to 5 years old. The families pay a symbolic amount of 25JD a month, and the children get a better education than in governmental schools, says Mohammad Omar Almuaimi, the new coordinator of the CDC. These kids are Jordanian and Syrian, and they come from families that normally can afford the monthly fee. But Mr. Omar says he wants to attract more children in the future, including from refugee families that live nearby.

Upstairs, there is the Innovation Lab, where Ai’sha actually works. They have three well-equipped rooms. The first one is a programming learning room, where the youth get some introduction to programming. Ouch! Sounds very hard, and the decoration of the room is composed by lovely robots on the walls. The second room has several uses: it’s a robotics lab, but also there are many books, tables, toys and everything the youth needs.

The last room has a guitar and a piano, and children can learn how to play the instruments. Also, they have good recording material. Ai’sha explained that actually they have even elderly coming to the center to learn, and afterwards they participate as instructors for the young ones.

A project with the USAid is providing some English classes to locals as well.

I offered myself to volunteer there some days a week, inshallah very soon I can also teach some photography to youth and give them a hand with social media!

The funniest part was discovering some mutual background between me and Omar (I’m friends with his cousin, back in Bethlehem/Palestine!) and also between Abu Farez and Omar. They have worked together for an animation competition in 2007, producing a short movie for water usage.

It seems like the rain has brought some good luck for us!

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Abu Farez and our horse men! Soon you will see some horses runing aroud here!

Update on the current life on the Peacewadi

Salaam Alaikum

This is Jacob from Denmark behind the keyboard. I’m currently volunteering at the Peacewadi together with Jonas, Nochi and Nayomi, who are volunteers from Germany, Japan and USA. We’d like to give an update on what’s going on here at the Peacewadi farm at the moment.

The harvesting season of the dates is rapidly approaching, and the first dates should be ready to be harvested in a couple of weeks. In the staggering summer heat, where the temperature easily reaches above 30 degrees, the date trees need a lot of water. During these days, we use a lot of time on irrigating the trees through the complex irrigation system.

A lot of weed has spread around the date tree fields – it needs to be removed. The hot weather makes physical labor extremely exhausting during the day, so the work of removing weed usually takes place from 5 or 6 in the morning to around 9.

Additionally, as you see in the pictures, the Peacewadi now has its own compost hole for organic trash. We hope that this compost hole not only provides better options for recycling at the Peacewadi, but also reaches outside the front door of Peacewadi by setting an example of living sustainable. This is particular important  in an area, where recycling is very rare – it’s common to burn trash in big fires, and there’s also a lot of trash lying around in the fields, alongside the roads, and in nature in general.

Mohammed, after visiting Palestine for a couple of weeks, has decided to start up another great project: Jiran of the Valley. This project, which you can read more about on the link below, is intended to reestablish the historic connection between the cities of Shuneh and Jericho.

We hope to continue updating the site during the next couple of weeks.

maʿal-salāmah

Nochi from Japan, Jonas from Germany, Nayomi from USA, Jacob from Denmark, and Mohammed from Peacewadi

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The Plight Of The Date Palm: 1

Hello everyone!

In March, we had a worker with some great input about our work here and we hope it may give some insight about our farm as well! We asked Eoin if we could use his post because we would love to publish it. Here it is:

(March 2, 2016)

Hi! First off, my name is Eoin. I’ll be managing the blog on this website for the next while.

I came to the Valley of Peace a few days ago and have been enjoying working in the fields ever since – work that consisted mainly of digging holes, in order to replant young date palms from a neighbouring field. The sight of the new palms filling up what were previously empty spaces is a decidedly satisfying one.

Today, however, was even more satisfying: we turned on the taps.

In parallel to our work with the holes, many of the other workers here had been toiling tirelessly in order to ensure that the dream of a working irrigation system became a reality. After unrolling meters upon meters of plastic pipe – and connecting offshoots to each individual plant – we were ready to give it a go. We waited expectantly as the sound of rushing water filled the air. For a while, nothing. Until:

Hey, Presto! A problem. There wasn’t enough pressure coming through one of the main pipes to supply water to all of the plants that needed it.

And so it goes. Another pipe was called for and unrolled. It cost me a shoe. C’est la vie.

Tomorrow, we’ll see if the fruits of our labour paid off. For now, here are a couple photos of the day’s work. (pictures coming soon)

Feel free to contact or visit us through email, tel. phone, our Facebook page, YouTube channel for additional information.

Valley of Peace
Mohammed Atiyeh…………………………………………….+962 795527397

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An Adventure called The Valley of Peace: a small piece of the puzzle

The Valley of Peace has been a long standing organic peace community for many years. I would like to share some history pertaining to our farm and centre. You could call it some of the many stories, trials, and adventures of the Valley of Peace; a culmination of many small and grand rewards. We offer this post as a small starter and are wondering if you’d like us to keep doing this. Let us know!

In 1981, this farm was owned by Mohammed Atiyeh (62) and we have been cultivating date trees since 2013. And from then on, the journey goes on! Here, and in future posts, is a brief part of a description of the geography, culture, learning experience, history, farm background, weather, and stories you can find here. It sounds like a lot (!) but we will get there, “shwoyeh shwoyeh” (one step at a time/a little a little).

As we’ve stated in a previous post, our farm is located in a technically advantageous place for new travelers, taxi drivers, and local commuters or people from Palestine.  We believe that peace is in knowing and being less assuming of each other in order to support peace. Though there is segregation and bureaucracy, that is realistically expected. (Comment below if you would like to share more on this subject!) Many people who work in the taxi business stop by often to eat, rest, and have a cup of tea at the front entrance cafe. There are also travelers wishing to renew their Israeli visas after a short stay in Jordan and you are welcome to stay with us before your return. For more information on how to renew your visas, don’t hesitate to ask! You can find us on King Hussein Bridge Road and you may notice a few taxi cabs as well as a gate. And we go where the date palms grow. In Jordan, most taxi drivers are hardworking men and it’s extraordinarily superb that they can have a place to take a break, especially in the summer. Not to mention, it was quite an innovative idea to open a centre close to Allenby bridge. It is also uncommon to find many workers who are women in the taxi or service business or sometimes in general in Jordan. It is part of the Jordanian culture, but this open topic can definitely be argued.  We would like to know what our readers have experienced internationally or in their countries, have you experienced such minorities in other places? Comment below or let us know, we’re interested in what you have to say!

Also, people from all diversities enter through the King Hussein/ Allenby bridge. However, in order to enter from Israel to Jordan via this bridge, you will be required to present a pre arranged visa because they do not offer Jordan visas at the Allenby bridge border crossing on the spot. But when you cross, we at the farm have a lot of experience to share. Another tip we would like to share with travelers is that prior to arriving in Jordan, we suggest you apply for a Jordanian pass because it is better to purchase it before you arrive than after. Using this pass, you are eligible for tourism benefits and your entry fee is combined with other fees all in one price, such as tickets to Petra or Wadi Rum. Other benefits are included but feel free to check it out on the official website if you’re interested! Here is the link:
http://jordanpass.jo/

For travelers who would like to get a full experience, we would be happy to help you find your way around popular tourist sites, such as Aqaba, Wadi Rum, Wadi Musa, Amman, Madaba, etc. We are near the Dead Sea and in the middle of a politically hot region 300 meters away from the Jordanian border point, not far from the Jordan river and the Baptism site. You can go wherever in Jordan by bus for a small expense and each place has some local secrets. From our farm, you’re able to see the outskirts of Jerusalem and Jericho because we are so close to Israel and the Palestinian territory. By night, the city lights illuminate the mountain side in the distance. The mountain landscape also makes for a beautiful view and a great sunset. Photographers have been welcomed here many a times before.

At the lowest point on earth and, to some level, the most oxygen, this is a good place for anyone looking to reach and press the temporary refresh button in their life. In addition, if you suffer from health issues or asthma, we believe that this place is quite calming and therapeutic. Perhaps that is cause to share with you about a possible spa in the future at the Valley of Peace. For all types of people, we are thinking of creating a programme that allows guests to focus on themselves somewhat like a meditative programme and possibly incorporate the environment of the trees, farming activities, mountain landscape, ever changing sky, cuisine, yoga, sea salt, mud, pool, and other great ideas. If you’d like to give us feedback, we are very interested in your opinions so don’t hesitate to contact us!

We would like to update you on more stories and possibly even more future commemorations, testaments, and inspirational pillars for our life here. There is more to say than one post can describe! It is a great honor to be a witness to all of this, knowing that it has been happening for these many years, as well as for everyone involved to be a part of it as well. In addition, there are more pieces to the puzzle to be shared/learnt of and many facts about the place. If you’d like to continue to know more about the farm or info related to this post, comment or subscribe and let us know! We are truly here to help you.

Feel free to contact or visit us through email, tel. phone, our Facebook page, YouTube channel for additional information.

Valley of Peace
Mohammed Atiyeh…………………………………………….+962 795527397

Subscribe on email for web updates, promotions, & Check out our videos and current events!:
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