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Photo by: Ghadir Hani
Wadi Attir Beduin eco-village ready for active stage
By SHARON UDASIN
01/02/2013
Medical farming, sheep and goats on the way.
 
In the arid plains of the northeast Negev Desert, the Beduin village of Hura is one step closer to becoming home to a blossoming eco-village rife with flora and fauna, as well as renewable energy.

All those involved with the Wadi Attir Project celebrated the completion of its “preparation phase” on Thursday, in a ceremony jointly held near the village by Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael- Jewish National Fund, the Hura Municipal Council and the nonprofit organization Wadi Attir.

Initiated by the municipal council and the US-based Sustainability Laboratory five years ago, the project aims to establish an ecological farm that can become “a model for sustainable, community-based agricultural enterprise” in an arid environment, according to KKL-JNF, which joined in the project at its beginnings.

Upon completion, the approximately 40-hectare (99-acre) site will sit adjacent to Road 31 near Hura, at a junction that connects the roads leading to Arad and the Dead Sea. Upon completion, the first of two parts of the site will include about 22 irrigated hectares, of which 7 hectares will include cultivated medicinal plants and indigenous vegetables. The remaining 15 hectares in that zone will be divided into three equal subplots for open grazing.

In the second area, 13 hectares will go to facilities such as animal pens, a dairy center, an administrative building, a visitor’s center, a training facility, a compost site, a solar energy production site and a recycling plant. Meanwhile, 5 hectares in that second area will likewise become a free grazing range.

The project has been made possible by a wide range of partners, such as a government consortium led by the Negev and Galilee Development Ministry that includes the Agriculture Ministry, the Authority for Economic Development of the Arab, Druse and Circassian Sectors in the Prime Minister’s Office, and the Authority for Regulating Beduin Settlement in the Negev. KKL-JNF also became instrumental in the project, as did other foundations and individual donors, explained Michael Ben-Eli, founder of the Sustainability Laboratory.

All in all, the program will require investment of about NIS 22 million.

After four years of planning, work on the project officially kicked off in December 2011 when the government consortium committed to spending approximately NIS 10m. on the project.

Of that NIS 10m., NIS 6m. comes from a team of government offices led by the Negev and Galilee Regional Development Ministry – in cooperation with the Agriculture Ministry and the Authority for Economic Development of the Arab, Druse and Circassian Sectors. The other approximately NIS 4m.

comes from the Authority for Regulating Beduin Settlement, Ben-Eli said.

In February 2012, the Sustainability Laboratory announced the receipt of a grant from the Energy and Water Ministry for the project of NIS 972,440, for installing an advanced solar energy system for electricity production and building cooling on site, Ben-Eli told The Jerusalem Post at the time. This system is being manufactured by ZenithSolar, a company whose products were developed at the National Solar Energy Center at Ben-Gurion University’s Sde Boker campus.

Advanced irrigation systems will come from the Netafim firm.

Since the beginning of the project, KKL-JNF has invested well over $1m., with more funds coming in constantly, JNF CEO Russell Robinson told the Post on Wednesday evening.

“The Beduin are part of Israel and part of the Negev,” Robinson said, adding that the Wadi Attir project will truly be “an economic growth opportunity” for the Beduin community.

Completion of the preparation phase means that project workers have nearly finished preparing the land for medical farming and other crop growth, as well as corralling an area for the future grazing sheep and goats, Robinson explained.

Project Wadi Attir is a crucial element in KKLJNF’s overall vision to develop the Negev and increase the population and its stability, he added.

This eco-village will affect 10,000 Beduin lives as a cooperative for all the towns in the region, offering work and education, Robinson said.

“A lot of people can protest about the issues of the Beduin, but the bottom line is we are the only organization making a relevant change in the Beduin system,” he said.

“This was from the ground up – this wasn’t something that came from us down,” Robinson said, noting that his organization aimed to make “a relevant change in the Beduin system.”

The beauty of the project, he explained, was its ability to bring prosperity, be it for sheep herders or for women developing indigenous cosmetics.

“This project shows how you can keep the cultural existence,” Robinson said.

“This is for everybody – it’s a win-win situation.”
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