An sustainable eco-farm for the Negev Beduin community that has been in the
works for four years will finally get under way next week, after the government
recently committed to spend approximately NIS 10 million on the
Project Wadi Attir aims to create an ecological community that
combines Beduin traditional values with modern renewable energy technology and
farming techniques. It is the brainchild of Dr. Michael Ben-Eli at the New
York-based Sustainability Laboratories and Hura Mayor Dr. Muhammad
Last week, the Negev and Galilee Regional Development Ministry
took the lead from the government’s side, and in cooperation with the
Agriculture and Rural Development Ministry and the Authority for Economic
Development of the Arab, Druse and Circassian Sectors in the Prime Minister’s
Office, approved the team’s plans and pledged NIS 6m. to the
Another approximately NIS 4m. will come from the
Authority for Regulating Beduin Settlement in the Negev, according to
The total cost of the initiative – the remainder of which will
come through funds raised by the Sustainability Laboratories – will amount to
about NIS 22m.
“The project will leverage knowledge and integrate it with
traditional Beduin values, and will bring economic development and improve the
welfare and quality of life of the Beduin population in the Negev,” Negev and
Galilee Regional Development Minister Silvan Shalom said in a statement. “As
part of strengthening and empowering the various populations of the Negev, we
decided to support the ecological farm as a project that highlights the benefits
of Beduin society and its unique contributions to the area. I am certain that
the farm will inspire other similar projects that will provide hundreds of jobs
in the Negev.”
A groundbreaking ceremony will take place on Tuesday at
the approximately 45-hectare (111- acre) project site, at the Yatir junction on
Road 31, just south of Hura. The construction itself will probably begin in
January, according to Ben-Eli.
“That was a very important development for
us when the office of Silvan Shalom decided to support this project,” he told
The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday evening. “We are looking forward to collaborating
with them and sharing the integrity of the project.”
For the past four
years, which been focused largely on designing blueprints for the plan and
making statutory progress, the Sustainability Laboratories has spent about $1m.,
most of which came from private donors and foundations in the United
Developing a project of this magnitude has been “very demanding
and very expensive,” according to Ben-Eli.
“We have tried to design this
project based on the aspiration and tradition and culture of the Beduin, but
leveraging it with advanced technology,” he said.
“It is an attempt to
develop a model for sustainable agriculture in an arid environment.”
site, organic meat and dairy products will be cultivated from sheep and goats,
which will benefit from new grazing practices and modernized herding techniques.
Farmers at the ecological village will use soilenhancing techniques, while a
women’s training program for raising and preserving indigenous vegetables will
empower women and improve family income. In an attempt to achieve
self-sufficiency, the community will also have compost sites, biogas, and
“cutting-edge approaches to renewable energy production, recycling and arid land
conservation,” according to a video about the project.
The farm will
receive irrigation through technology by the Netafim company, while the
electricity and air conditioning systems will be powered by ZenithSolar’s
“We are very happy to participate in this
important project,” Roy Segev, CEO of ZenithSolar, told the Post. “Wadi Attir
will utilize ZenithSolar’s combined heat and power solar systems to provide the
project’s electricity and hot water needs. Our Z20 system is the world’s most
efficient solar machine with overall efficiency of 72 percent.”
from around the South – not only from Beduin communities – will be able to reap
the benefits of the sustainable work being conducted onsite.
heart of this will be a visitor training and education center, which the Reshet
Amal [the Amal school network] and the Education Ministry are going to use for
all the schools in the region,” said Ben-Eli, who credits much of the research
conducted for the plans to the Blaustein Institutes of Desert Research at
Another critical aspect of the project, in
Ben-Eli’s eyes, is the fact that residents of villages across the Negev have
been directly involved in shaping it.
“The Beduin society is very tribal
and cliquish in that way and we wanted the project not to just be associated
with one tribe or one city,” he said.
For this reason, the site ended up
on Israel Lands Authority grounds outside of Hura, rather than inside the
village, according to Ben-Eli.
“The project is organized as a
cooperative, and there have been 12 individuals from different villages,
including men and women – they are not the same people as they were four years
ago,” he said, emphasizing the importance – and uniqueness for the Beduin
community – of having women play critical roles.
“We wanted to develop a
model for sustainable agriculture in the desert, manifesting the sustainability
principles we developed at the lab,” Ben-Eli said. “But at the same time, we
wanted it to be a model for a process of economic and community development.”