Economic Development through Ecological Restoration
In 2010 I became the project manager at the Al Baydha Project in Makkah, Saudi Arabia. I designed programs and systems that would help settled bedouin develop a culture of work and self-reliance, and teach them how to convert their land from desert into a productive, regenerative landscape. After studying permaculture with Geoff Lawton, and after designing these systems, I moved to Al Baydha to live with the bedou and work with them developing sustainable systems in watershed management, low-tech methods of flash-flood management, forestry, construction, and sustainable grazing patterns.
Since then, I have overseen and facilitated training nearly 100 bedou in various skillsets, in some cases training them personally, and in others bringing experts from outside and acting as the translator and mediator between these experts and the community in Al Baydha.
At the same time, I have worked with a team of locals to establish a small site where we have proved that desert areas of the hijaz can be converted to productive, savannah-based landscape, using less water than the total rainfall on that site.
In 4 years, we have seen tremendous changes on the social and environmental aspects of the project, and are at the cusp of developing small businesses that will sustainably use the resources of the area, generate wealth for the people living there, and allow them to flourish for generations to come.