A day in the Life of a Peace Valley Volunteer

Hey again it is Mira and Min, we thought we would share our typical daily schedule so future volunteers would know what to expect. But just note we are currently in off season for any vegetables. The work here is quite flexible and you can pursue your own activities and projects. Creativity is encouraged.

Our day typically starts with a 6 am wake up call from the sun rising over Jordan. You can probably find us on the roof stretching at this time. It does sound early, but it is worth taking advantage of the day before it gets too hot. We then get ready, have a quick breakfast of dates or other fruit, and then by 6:30 am we head for the fields. The length of the workday varies day to day depending on how much there is to do, but usually we are done by 11:00 at the latest (it is way too hot to work afterwards). If there is not work to do in the fields we then do some cleaning around the farm, or other side projects. For example, work on the gray water recycling system, paint signs, work on social media outreach and so forth. Really, Mohammad encourages you to think out of the box and try to find fun ways to improve the farm.

In the afternoon, we have some down time. This is usually where you will see us napping on a couch, or reading on the terrace. Mira even just naps on her yoga mat in front of the fan! There are a bunch of hikes nearby, but since it is the hottest season we haven’t been able to do that.

Once the sun starts getting lower in the sky, we all become alive again with the cool air. We do some more computer work for Mohammad, take photos, eat some fresh fruit and play card games. Since it is still Ramadan, we wait till the sunsets and we hear call from the a nearby mosque, knowing it is time for a delicious meal – iftar, breaking the fast. We eat together, sometimes with the neighbors or Mohammad’s brother and his friends, a phenomenal meal. I think after Ramadan it is expected that we have to cook more for our little farm family. We have started our own tradition of walking into town after dinner. We usually grab a cold soda and people watch. When we get back we feed some left overs to the puppies and kittens that are still around.

Our bedroom under the stars

Our bedroom under the stars

 

Overall, it is a nice day. A lot of free time, but you can make of it what you want.

By far our favorite part is at the end of the day. It is extremely relaxing to go to sleep under the stars on the roof. We have an amazing view of Jericho city, and we get to work on identifying constellations.

Date Season coming up in the Valley of Peace

Date season is nearing in Peace Wadi, and we are all busy preparing the fields. Here are the three volunteers, Mira from Finland, Min from Greece and Pierre from France. We have been eating the frozen dates from last season nonstop. None of us could believe how good these were and how they melted in your mouth. There are so many dates, and a wide variety is cultivated here.19225299_10155523721859009_6044176568142257971_n.jpg

Currently the dates are still green hanging in bunches from the palm trees. But don’t worry every day we make sure to test them out. Mohammed said the dates won’t be ready for picking until mid-July or early August.

Seeing as last season they are so delicious frozen, imagine how good they will be in 6 weeks? Fresh off the palms, and ready for eating.

Come get your dates and if you want to volunteer let us know!

Grey Water Treatment Project

 

Salaam alaikum!

As promised, here is our introduction to the farms Grey Water Treatment Project, written by us, the current volunteers, Cecilie from Denmark and Hanna from Norway.

The Grey Water Treatment Project at the farm has been underway for some time, and is coming along nicely. This is an exciting step for our recycle-conscious farm. Soon, we will not only be reusing our organic waste (food waste) as bio-gas, but also reusing our water.

What is Greywater?

Greywater is water that has been used, but not in a heavy or polluting way. Greywater includes water from baths, sinks, dishwashing and laundry, etc. (It does not include sewage water)

In areas with water-shortage, or just in general, to spare unnecessary spoiling of clean water, it can be a big advantage to reuse the grey water. In order to reuse it, the water is treated using one of many available methods. The treatment should be healthy and environmentally friendly as well.

Treated water is often used to flush toilets, water plants and do laundry.

By reusing water, the pressure on the clean fresh water resources can be lifted.

Our take on the project

We had only heard briefly of greywater and reuse of domestic water before arriving at the farm. When we arrived here in Jordan, it became clear to us that these measures needs to be taken to protect the livelihood of people here in the future. Water-shortage is not something you often think about in Scandinavia. During our travel in Israel, Palestine and Jordan, we’ve met inspiring people and visited places which have truly opened our eyes to how privileged we are living in Denmark and Norway.  When we show our red passports almost every border is open to us, a freely chosen education is a right, we have a high level of material security and the consequences of our enormous consumption of natural resources are (unfortunately) not always present in our consciousness and everyday life. We live a privileged life and that is horribly easy to take for granted. Lesson learned: be thankful and appreciate more. With that being said, our own culture could definitely take some advice from the Middle Eastern way of life 🙂 it’s a true blessing travelling among such wonderful and openhearted people.

The idea of re-using grey water is of course suitable everywhere there is a waste of water, but in an area with a shortage of water it can be necessary. We’ve stayed at Peace Wadi for a week now and we’ve experienced to run empty on water twice – during a hot day with no water you get aware of how much water you use on small and insignificant things. Again: it’s a real eye opener. But the fact that we’ve learned to be aware of our own water consumption doesn’t change the reality here. Peace Wadi inspires by being a a place, where recycling of organic waste and (soon) grey water is a natural part of the household, setting an example of living sustainable in an area where recycling is very rare but necessary.

We’re very excited to follow the project!

 

 

 

 

May in Peace Wadi

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Dear friends of the Valley, salaam alaikum!

This is Hanna from Norway, Mara from the Netherlands and Cecilie from Denmark writing. We are the current volunteers at Peace Wadi and we figured it was time for an update on the life here.

With the arrival of May the temperatures of the Valley has been rising, and all outdoor work has to happen in the early hours of the morning. Abu Bakir, our full-time helper here at the farm, is grooming the date palms for harvesting season, and Mara, our Dutch volunteer, has been helping him a bit.

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When we aren’t in the field we’ve been working on restoring the cafeteria to make it ready for the celebration of Ramadan. We want to make it a place for the people of the valley to gather in, with a good atmosphere and room for spending some happy days. In order to do so we’ve sorted some clutter out, removed unnecessary stuff from the area and cleaned up. Now we’ve started painting the walls of the cafeteria and it is coming along nicely –  it’s amazing what a stroke of paint can do!

The Grey Water Treatment project is also in full swing. Hadi, the engineer for the project, and his workers are coming here almost every day to get it done. We’re really excited about it and will share a post exclusively about this inspiring project. Recycling is an important part of everyday life on the farm, and we’re looking forward to soon be able to recycle our water as well as our food and organic waste.

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Volunteering at the farm is not only hard work. We also have time to visit the beautiful places surrounding the valley and of course to enjoy the stunning sunset over our friends in Palestine (perhaps from our roof top beds :). It’s a wonderful community around the farm with a lot of heart and as a volunteer, you really get to feel welcome. As a volunteer, you naturally become a part of the big family here, the Children of the Valley. We really appreciate this!

Muhammad has been in Palestine for the last couples of days to visit family and friends. In the meantime the three of us has been running the farm, with good help from everyone here. We’re looking forward to having him back at Peace Wadi!

Maʿal-salāmah

Mara, Hanna & Cecilie

 

Eid Al-Khubaizeh 2017

Only 4 days are left: We will open the second Eid al-Khubaizeh next Tuesday and are already very excited!

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Between the 14th of February and the 21st of March we will celebrate our favourite local plant on our farm close to the King Hussein Bridge with several activities: farmer’s market with local fruits, herbs and vegetables and other products homemade by members of the local community, music, children’s activities, playground, petting zoo and of course daily Khubaizeh dishes!

On our opening day we will even have the chance listen to some speeches, for example of his excellency Dr. Bassem Mubayden who is supporting our festival with his patronage.

Everybody is warm-heartedly invited to visit us and join the festival! Bring your families, friends, neighbours and classmates. Or come with your whole company and book a Khubaizeh Day for you and your colleagues (just send us an e-mail or call before).

If you are interested in supporting us creating this wonderful event – contact us! We are happy about every helping hand for cooking, at the entrance, selling, children’s activities, making music,…

We are looking forward to see you soon and enjoy the season of Khubaizeh with you! 🙂

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🙂

Manure Mania

Human consumption led to a decline of fossil fuel and other resources whereas on the other hand there is  increasing pollution of the environment like waste dumps, groundwater contamination and eutrophication. The buzzwords SUSTAINABILITY and RECYCLING are ubiquitous but misleading. Most Western countries separate their wastes in plastic, glass and organic. However, most of it just gets burned or used for landfill.

A good solution for implementing a real recycling system was brought to the Peace Valley by Thomas Henry Culhane. He is part of the project Solar Cities Bigas which allows consumers all over the world to treat their kitchen (and if wanted toilet) wastes to receive liquid fertilizer and biogas. Sounds like magic, but it is just simple biology and chemistry. Astonishingly there is not a lot of equipment needed.

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During his three days in Jordan Thomas assembled three biogas systems. Two ready made commercial versions by the company Homebiogas and one system made from the scratch with the material he found around the area. The latter allows people in regions without access to the world market due to monetary or logistic reasons to build their own homebiogas system to give value to their wastes.

Thomas refers to the system as a living being. It has a mouth, the funnel, where the food (waste) enters the digester. The digester is like a huge stomach including the intestines with their rich and diverse bacteria population. And like any other animal or human it has to get rid of the end products so it has a rectum for the gaseous fraction and an urinator for the liquids.

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Under anaerobic conditions bacteria decompose the organic waste. There is no pre-treatment needed. If you for example ground or cut the organic waste before you insert it in the digester, it would just speed up the initial starting period but not alter the gas and fertiliser production pattern.

Assembling the commercial system resembles building a IKEA bed. Several labelled boxes, metal sticks, folie and screwdrivers are included. The only difference is that homebiogas delivers all the needed screws without a single one missing.

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Like other animals the biogas system also has a skeleton. After the construction of the frame, the digester sack is added. A pipe connects the funnel to the stomach from which two pipes leave. One pipe leads to the gas balloon which is collecting the produced gas, the other one is the pipe for the liquid fertiliser.

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The D.I.Y. version of the biogas system needs some practical skills and improvisation. The holes in the tank need to be melted in with a hot metal piece. After connecting the tubes, soap water is spread all over the tank to ensure that the tank is entirley sealed. The moment oxygen is entering the system, the anaerobic fermentation is disturbed and the gas production hindered.

 

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We are all happy for the opportunity to be part of this project, as it is a milestone for sustainable waste treatment, gas and energy production as well as obtaining fertilisers in Jordan. Inshallah, in the next months more systems will be spread over the country, especially in the refugee camps where this technology is needed the most.

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!