The joy of having a tree nursery

The joy of having a tree nursery

We cleared out a storage area and turned it into a nursery for moringa seedlings. (Other plants might follow soon.) They require only a bit of water every day and spread so much joy. Everybody who takes a tour of the nursery starts smiling about the mighty little plants which grow visibly every day.

Our goal is to spread the word about this incredibly diverse plant by enlarging our own moringa orchard at the farm and sharing the seedlings with everybody who is interested in growing their own moringa trees. If you want to learn more about moringa check out this blog post: https://peacewadi.com/2020/09/28/moringa-wonder-tree/.

Moringa wonder tree

Moringa wonder tree

Peace Wadi promotes permaculture and one of our favorite plants here is the moringa tree because of the minimal resources required to grow it and the fact that almost the entire tree can be used as either food or fertilizer.

The name

Moringa oleifera is also known as drumstick tree from the shape of the seed pods or horseradish tree from the taste of the roots or ben oil tree from the oil derived from the seeds. It’s fast-growing and drought-resistant.

Use of the plant parts

Almost every part of the plant is edible. The young green seed pods and the leaves are used as vegetables. Mature seeds can be eaten raw, cooked or roasted. The roots are shredded and used as a spice of a sharp flavor which resembles radish.

Here on the farm we dry the leaves and use them to make tea or as an extra ingredient in traditional Jordanian food. After drying the leaves we also grind them into powder to use it as food supplement for additional vitamins and minerals in our meals.

Oil extracted from the mature seeds can be used as food supplement or base for hair and skin cosmetics. Its biofuel potential is currently being studied. What remains after extracting the oil is referred to as seed cake and can be used as fertilizer or to purify water.

Cultivation

Moringa loves sun and heat and therefore favors semiarid, tropical and subtropical climate. The soil should be neutral to slightly acidic, sandy or clayey. Depending on temperature and water the trees will flower once or twice a year or even all year-round.

Here on the farm we cut back the trees once a year to 1m height which improves leave growth.

Source: Wikipedia

Moringa tree seed harvest

Moringa is helping to prevent and cure diseases the benefits include to reduce symptoms of stomach pain, headache, heardproblems like high bloodpressure and can relief menstrual cramps.

Moringa can be prepared as a vegetable or included in soups, but mostly the leaves and fruits are used, especially for preparing tea.

After drying the tea leaves until they are crisp, they should be grinded and stored in a dry container. To prepare the tea just add hot water, lemon or sugar. Enjoy!

We harvested the seedbags of the tree and put them in the sun to dry.

They can be eaten like peas or rosted like nuts and contain a high amount of vitamin C, B vitamins and dietary minerals. Oil can also be made from them. It has no smell and resists rancidity.

Date with the dates #3 : the Khadrawi

Welcome back to Date with the Dates, our informative series of the different types of dates grown here at Peace Wadi. Today we will explore the Khadrawi variety.

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This type of dates comes from Iraq. Khadrawi dates are medium size fruits with medium sweetness and cannot be eaten before it’s either Rotob stage (half ripe stage) or Tamar stage (ripe stage). It has a very much “toffee” flavour and butterscratch texture. That makes them ideal for making excellent date paste to cook different home sweets. It is also very good for dates molasses and syrup. Khadrawi dates are an excellent source of dietary fiber, folic acid, iron, potassium, protein and B-vitamins.

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Their thin papery skin has a tendency to dry out, so keep them tightly wrapped and refrigerated in an airtight container.

In the farm, we have around 30 Khadrawi dates trees. We currently sell the first rotob Khadrawi of the season freshly picked. They are so creamy and delicious, we are waiting for you !

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Spa Adventure in the Dead Sea

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The unofficial “Spa Adventure Tour” is one of several activities you can do during your free time if you volunteer at Peace Wadi . Mohammad took us few hours before the sunset to the Canyon in which we hiked through the source and got a bath in the hot mineral water of the valley. We could have a natural massage thanks to the strong waterfalls. We didn’t see any foreign tourists in the area, but there were lots of Jordanians from Amman looking to unwind in the water. It’s a nice way to have an authentic experience. We could meet and take pictures with Jordanian people, but above all, we were so glad to see the beauty of nature.

 

After this relaxing time, we moved to salt water and drove to the Dead Sea, which was right across the road. We found a deserted place where it seemed as if no humans had walked before. We had to hike a few minutes through the sand before reaching the sea. As the ground got more and more muddy, we knew that our target was getting close. Finally our feet touched the water as we watched the beautiful sunset over Palestine. We didn’t wait to rub the famous mud all over our bodies before we tried to swim in the salty water of the Dead Sea.

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The longer you keep the mud on yourself, the more you benefit from its health benefits. Plus it makes for a nice memory; and all of this for free! After applying a few mud masks and floating in the salty water, we ended our trip at a restaurant eating Jordanian Shawarma and Kebab.

It was an amazing day, all thanks to Mohammad!

Jonna, Elena, Cindy, Bryant and Yael (volunteers from Netherlands, USA and France).

D-10 before The Perseid Night at Peace Wadi

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Peace Wadi will organize the Perseid Night on the 12th of August. We will celebrate the peak of Perseid meteor shower, the debris of the Comet Swift-Tuttle that crosses our solar system every 2000 years.

Comet Swift-Tuttle is the largest object known that passes by Earth, as it is 26 km (16 miles) wide. It passed around the sun in 1992 and we are able to see its debris falling into the atmosphere burning up in a bright burst of light. Those pieces of comets are travelling at around 59 km/s (37 miles/s). and there average size is the size of a grain of sand…

You can observe it from anywhere on Earth from 8/4 to 8/17, and its peak takes place on the might between 8/12 and 8/13. Make sure to bring something comfortable to sit on and wait 30 minutes before your eyes adjust to the dark. Then you are ready to see the magic of Nature.

If you are around Peace Wadi on that night, come with your friends and enjoy our beautiful spot 😉

A day with Zain al Shabab

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Welcome to Peace Wadi, where we hosted Zain al Shabab for a day of volunteering on the farm. We were really excited about this event because it meant the local youths from Amman could help us plant our planned Moringa tree field. This tree is well known for its nutritious and almost miraculous features, where all parts of the tree (bark, seeds, fruit, and leaves) have applications.

 

After feeding the cats, we started preparing homemade date molasses for our guests. As always, under the supervision of Mohammad.

With the trees already delivered and the molasses cooking, we were ready to welcome Zain youth.

After the Zain al Shabab members introduced themselves, Mohammad explained the concept of the farm and talked about the activities he had planned for the day. “Why plant Moringa trees?,” you might ask. This work has an educational goal as the farm should work towards sustainable and highly nutritive plant growing. And that is what our Peace Wadi wants to promote.

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The nutritional goal was explained by Abou Youssef, the local greenhouse operator who delivered our Moringa trees. He explained to us that the tiny leaves of Moringa could save millions of lives.  The small, rounded leaves are packed with an incredible amount of nutrition–protein, calcium, beta carotene, vitamin C, potassium– and have been used as part of traditional medicine for centuries.

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We were then ready to start planting the trees all afternoon. Thanks to their motivation and team spirit, we managed to finish the work quickly. We also set up the irrigation system and made sure the trees were being watered in their new homes.

Everyone was satisfied and proud, and after the work was complete we went on a tour of the date farm. While Mohammad explained how to cultivate dates, the whole group were focus… well maybe not everyone.

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We ended this beautiful day by sharing a meal all together, prepared by our farmer, Abou Baker.

We are all very grateful to Zain al Shabab for their energy and their help. We hope to see them soon and look forward to welcoming them and other local volunteers back to the farm.

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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.

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!