Permaculture Lessons From the Desert

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Geoff is visiting Saudi Arabia for a consultancy, and he is out exploring the desert in a nature reserve. They’ve done a fine job planting trees in the area, but Geoff has found a lot of potential for earthworks to improve the area’s recovery. Now, we can follow along with him to discover how he sees the landscape.
A ten-year-old planting is doing well in areas, but on the whole, it hasn’t taken into account water flows that could be advantageous to quicker growth. For example, the hard surface runoff from the roadway hasn’t been utilized. Across the road, an expensive planting with full irrigation has largely failed. Geoff has noticed the vegetation suffers when a speed bump stops the runoff from feeding the landscape.
Walking down the road, he discovers detritus and debris against a road sign and a shrub, signifying which way is downhill. From here, we can see that the successful trees are in the direction the water is moving, and the areas that haven’t worked are where the trees have depended on irrigation.
With earthmoving equipment, we could design to replicate the successful side of the road. In fact, in the middle of the field with irrigation, along the low side of an access track is where water congregates, and trees and vegetation are growing very well. It’s essential for us to harmonize with this water flow pattern as opposed to blindly using convention, like irrigation systems, which are wasteful and costly.
We can do this in all climates, but in drylands, it’s very obvious. And, this is how we can see patterns in what’s happening. Now, we need to learn to use them to our advantage.
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About Geoff:
Geoff is a world-renowned permaculture consultant, designer, and teacher. He has established permaculture demonstration sites that function as education centers in all the world’s extreme climates — information on the success of these systems is networked through the Permaculture Research Institute and the website.
About Permaculture:
Permaculture integrates land, resources, people and the environment through mutually beneficial synergies – imitating the no waste, closed-loop systems seen in diverse natural systems. Permaculture applies holistic solutions that are applicable in rural and urban contexts and at any scale. It is a multidisciplinary toolbox including agriculture, water harvesting and hydrology, energy, natural building, forestry, waste management, animal systems, aquaculture, appropriate technology, economics, and community development.

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