Growing hope in the Arava Desert
Ketura Valley and Kibbutz Lotan. Israel
For the Ketura Wetlands Project, very young Israelis and Palestinians worked together to transform an arid valley into fertile land. The Arava Institute for Environmental Studies is a fine example of the Green Kibbutz Movement, and the wider Sustainable Management Agriculture philosophy
Please describe what you do:
I am the Project Manager of the Southern Arava Waste Management Plan (SASWMP)
SASWMP works to develop a comprehensive strategy to handle agricultural waste generated on both sides of the border between Israel and Jordan. The program’s innovative regional approach utilizes several methods to improve management of agricultural waste: technology, education, cooperation and coordination. SASWMP’s activities combine research, monitoring and groundbreaking pilot programs which work synergistically to manage waste while building young leadership prepared to handle future cross-border agricultural challenges. The project was generously is funded by the EU LIFE fund.
There are four main components of SASWMP’s work: Two Constructed Wetlands pilot programs, an eco-agricultural training program with Israel’s Jordanian neighbors, the Common Paths High School Education program for Jewish and Arab Israeli pupils, and the Agricultural Waste Business Master Plan for the Hevel Eilot Regional Council area.
I am the Financial director of the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies (AIES). AIES is a regional center for environmental leadership. By encouraging environmental cooperation between peoples, the Arava Institute is working towards peace and sustainable development on a regional and global scale. The Institute is situated on Kibbutz Ketura in Israel’s Southern Arava Valley - a desert in the Syrio-African rift near the Jordanian and Egyptian borders and the Gulf of Aqaba/Eilat. The Institute is home to academic programs, research and public involvement.
An overview of Arava Institute’s ideas and work (7′ 14”)
What do you enjoy most about what you do?
Working, assisting and cooperating with researchers, lecturers and students from the Middle East and all over the world.
What is your inspiration?
I am inspired by the passion for the environment and for coexistence of the people I work with, both in the region and the Arava Institute, and by the students of the Arava institute who come from Israel, the Palestine Authority, Jordan, North America, Europe and other countries.
Environment and economy are tied together. They’re not submitted to political borders. To ignore one of them is to endanger the balance of our existence…
How would you define luxury today? (or) What is, to you, the essence of luxury today?
The essence of luxury is:
• “quality of life” as reflected in my surroundings and immediate environment.
• The enjoyment of well made food.
• World travel
Eco-awareness is growing as is social consciousness and the need to be responsible towards our world and its people. What part do you play in this global mission?
SASWMP promotes the awareness of the need for comprehensive management of waste and actively advances solutions that serve as models for communities and regions around the world. In its work encouraging planning and management of waste at the local government level, bringing experts across boundaries to meet and solve waste issues collaboratively and educating youth to know waste issues and work together to solve them, SASWMP tackles the waste issue from several angles.
Furthermore, SASWMP is based on the Sustainable Management Agriculture philosophy, an ecological concept that places responsibility for the future of the environment and future generations at its heart. By practicing sustainability SASWMP promotes the social consciousness of environmental issues and the need to address them in socially and environmentally responsible ways.
Finally, the cross-boundary, regional perspective that SASWMP uses in all of its projects sends a strong message that people must engage each other, even in times of conflict, to solve environmental challenges – that environmental consciousness cannot stop at the border.
When and how did your project originate?
The concept was formed in 2004, based on existing regional projects, such as Common Paths and Eco-agriculture, along with the addition of the two major infrastructure projects - building constructed wetlands at Ketura Valley and Kibbutz Lotan, and a Master Plan for treating regional agriculture waste.
The concept was presented to the EU LIFE fund in 2004 and accepted as project.
Which continues to be your vision for this project?
This project promotes a simple, two-way paradigm: nature knows no borders. One direction of this paradigm relates to the necessary cooperation of the neighbors in the region (middle-east) in order to solve our major environmental challenges. The second direction relates to the immense power that a common goal can have on populations in conflict. By working on environmental solutions with our neighbors, we find common grounds.
How are your creativity and passion an important part of this project?
As in any complex long term project, involving many stakeholders, there is a need for continuous problem solving and creative thinking.
If you were to choose a colour and an adjective to describe it, what would they be?
Sky blue. Cool, calm and collected.
What is the message you wish to pass on?
Nature knows no borders. Start with your neighbors.
Name a person or place that has inspired you with their progressive vision
Dr. Shmuel Brenner – senior lecturer at AIES and prime investigator for MERC PM 2.5 air quality project.
Dr. Yael Meroz – consultant for EU LIFE projects in Israel.
Dorit Banet – head of Eilat-Eilot environment unit.