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Pushing Back the Desert with Ancient Wisdom

June 21, 2012

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Based on techniques used by the ancient Nabateans, Prof. Pedro Berliner, director of BGU’s Jacob Blaustein Institutes for Desert Research, is reviving effective and natural desert farming methods from 2,000 years ago.

The Nabateans settled the lands of present-day Israel, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Syria. Their approach to farming involved collecting and channeling floodwaters through desert canals to provide food, firewood and fodder for animals.

Berliner’s contemporary version, the intercrop agroforestry system, involves planting rows of trees with grain crops in between the rows, which help prevent rare desert floodwater from evaporating.

People under threat of desertification can use this sustainable method to ensure they can produce grain, fodder from the leaves of the trees for grazing animals, and firewood using the branches.

"An entire community can be built around winter rain runoff," says Prof. Berliner.

He travels around the world sharing BGU's innovative, yet ancient, farming methods with farmers in countries such as Kenya, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, India and Mexico.

Read more on Israel21C >>

Help BGU fund agroforestry research by planting olive trees in the desert >>