Over the past few months EcoPeace Middle East and the American Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have been collaborating on a joint project with the purpose of finding alternatives to agricultural plastic mulch in the Jordan Valley and to improve the operation and safety of a dumpsite in Deir Alla. These collaborations culminated in two publications titled “Operations and Safety Plan for Deir Allah Municipal Dumpsite” and “Effects of Plastics in Agriculture in The Jordan Valley: Utility, Impact, And Alternative Approaches”. A workshop was held on September 3rd at the Crowne Plaza – Amman, to officially release those publications to the public.

The workshop was an important opportunity for all the relevant stakeholders, both on-ground and in the central government, to discuss the applicability of the guidelines and recommendations put forth in the documents. The keynote speakers for the event were the Henry Constantine from the US Embassy, Christina Mercurio from the EPA and Yana Abu Taleb, Director of EcoPeace Jordan. Participants included senior representation from Ministry of Environment, the Jordan Valley Authority, local municipalities from the Jordan Valley, and farmers.



Representatives from the US Embassy and EPA

Plastic mulch is used in agriculture all around the world to decrease the evaporation of moisture in soil and to reduce the number of unwanted weeds that might pop up. Due to the fact that there is no recycling framework for it in the Jordan Valley, the only way to get rid of plastic mulch through burning. When burned, the mulch releases forty thousand times the amount of harmful gases and carcinogens into the air compared to diesel.  Moreover, the mulch used in Jordan is very thin and tends to tear after one season, leading to its ingestion by grazing animals and to greater environmental pollution.

Alternatives such as organic mulch and thicker plastic mulch (that can be used for more than one season) do exist but they are not as cost effective. This creates a dilemma for the cash-strapped farmers of the Jordan Valley who recognize the negative impacts of their current actions, but are reluctant to change their tried and true methods because it will affect their financial situation.  The farmers attending the workshop said that they would like to see realistic solutions that they can apply.


Operation and Safety Round-table Discussion

One of the suggestions proposed to solve the issue is to create a model farm that showcases the alternatives so that the farmers can see their effectiveness with their own eyes. Another suggestion was to give farmers a one-time subsidy to try out the organic mulch, in the hope that they would permanently switch to it. Also, some recommended creating incentives that would encourage farmers to collect the mulch and send it to factories where they may be recycled. It was decided that further meetings will need to take place to see if any or all of these suggestions are applicable.

The Deir Alla dumpsite presented a big challenge to the project team due its lack of resources and the experience at its disposal. Even though turning the dumpsite into a state-of-the-art landfill is currently impossible, the project team saw that the workers could implement many changes to improve the site. A few examples include controlling the type of waste entering the dumpsite, collecting data on the waste entering the site, and detailing the dangers and emergencies that might occur. In addition, the workers were provided with safety gear such as high visibility vests, gloves, boots and hardhats.


Plastic Mulch Round-table Discussion

There is a lot of potential for the Deir Alla dumpsite to act as a model that other dumpsites in Jordan can reference to implement similar operational improvements. The site manager and workers are enthusiastic about the change to their work environment and they are devoted improving continuously improving the site. Furthermore, the guidelines will be reviewed periodically based on the feedback of the workers to see if any of them are not realistic or applicable.

EcoPeace would like to thank all the farmers, the dumpsite workers, the municipalities and the ministries for their involvement and for their excellent feedback. Also, EcoPeace would like to thank the US State Department and the US Embassy in Jordan for their support of the project and the workshop. There will be follow up on all the suggestions and comments given and there is a strong commitment from the stakeholders to encourage the environmentally friendly use of plastic mulch and assisting in the proper implementation of operational and safety measures in the Deir Alla dumpsite.

To access the publications and read more about the project please click the link below:


Contributed by: Fadi Kardan – EcoPeace Middle East – Jordan

Posted by: EcoPeace Middle East | June 9, 2019

Deir Alla is Going Green!

The Eastern Jordan Valley is home to over 650,000 people, most of whom are spread out along the Jordan River and the Dead Sea. The Deir Alla municipality is an important but extremely underdeveloped community in the valley which is home to around sixty-five thousand people. Like much of the Jordan Valley, Deir Alla suffers from solid waste pollution, improper solid waste management, extremely high electricity costs which eat up a lot of its budget and extremely limited wastewater treatment infrastructure.

Mustapha Al Shati, the current mayor of Deir Alla, is striving towards a greener and more sustainable future for his community. His objective is to create more avenues of cooperation with investors and organizations such as the GIZ and EcoPeace Middle East to provide the basic services that his constituents need.

Mayor Shati cropped

Mayor Shati (Center) Taking Part in a Local Clean-Up Initiative

Three important projects are in the works to kickstart Deir Alla’s transformation into a greener city under Mayor Shati’s leadership, and they are: The implementation of a solid waste management program, the installation of a solar farm, and the rehabilitation and improvement of the Tal al Mantah wastewater treatment plant. A common theme of these projects is that by advancing solutions to the fore mentioned issues, the high operational costs that the municipality has to deal with can be significantly reduced, creating greater budgetary flexibility to reinvest in improving the community.

These three projects represent major strides for Deir Alla to become environmentally sustainable and to improve the locals’ quality of life. Furthermore, they show that there is concrete national and international effort to sustainably develop the Jordan Valley, which is home to the poorest communities in Jordan.

This article will highlight the various aspects of each project and its goals:

Solid Waste Management Project

Widespread littering and improper waste disposal from citizens and business owners, an unhealthy dumpsite, and poor waste collection and management infrastructure are major challenges that Deir Alla is facing in its solid waste sector. The municipality aims to tackle these issues by executing a comprehensive solid waste management (SWM) strategy.

Awareness campaigns will be used to engage the community to cut down on littering and improper waste disposal. The campaign officials will distribute brochures, posters, marked recycling bins, and in some cases, bins for organic waste to shops and public areas to encourage people to recycle. The community will be further engaged through radio shows as well as educational trips for students that demonstrate the advantages and importance of SWM. Furthermore, the municipality will start to strictly enforce anti-littering laws and incur fines on citizens and business who violate those laws. To balance out the stricter enforcement, an incentives program will be created for people and businesses who sort their waste.


Deir Alla’s Solid Waste Sorting Facility

The municipality, to upgrade its poor waste management infrastructure, will make its garbage trucks’ routes more efficient and establish a division for advanced SWM. By creating dedicated trucks routes that only go to homes or industrial areas or farms and studying those routes to make them more efficient, the SWM administrators can transfer waste to be sorted and recycled extremely effectively.

To begin establishing a division for advanced SWM, the municipality will be building a solid waste sorting plant in cooperation with the GIZ, as well as taking over an out-of-commission composting factory. By building a sorting plant, Deir Alla can collect and sell recyclable materials thereby reducing amount of waste heading to the dumpsite. In addition, the composting factory can make good use of the municipality’s organic waste, but purchasing trucks specialized in the collection of organic waste is what is needed to be done initially.

The final step needed to upgrade the municipality’s waste infrastructure is to create a properly managed landfill. Currently, the municipality uses a dumpsite with no measures to insulate the waste from the rest of the soil, which allows leachate percolation and groundwater subsurface pollution to occur. The only sorting done on site is by scavengers who are not sanctioned by the government.

In order to start building a landfill, Deir Alla has collaborated with EcoPeace Middle East, the American EPA and the German municipality of Jenna. Each of these organizations has contributed in their own way to the project: EcoPeace, a non-profit which has been active in the Jordan valley for the past 20 years, has created a pre-feasibility study on the creation of a landfill, Jenna municipality trained Deir Alla’s waste management employees on waste sorting and the EPA is developing an operation and safety plan for the landfill, creating pilots with several farms on the best practices for using plastic mulch and setting up a ‘green communities” website.


The Deir Alla Dumpsite

The municipality has highlighted that this project will have a highly positive effect on the community. Reducing pollution has the benefit of improving public health and making public spaces more visually appealing. To add to that, attracting larger investments in the recycling sector is an opportunity which should not be overlooked. A good example of this is the potential for the compost factory to be expanded to include a biogas generation unit which can create jobs for locals and be source of income for Deir Alla.

The Sustainable Energy and Economic Development Project

Power generation is one of the Jordanian government’s biggest expenditures. As the responsible entity for many buildings in the area, the Deir Alla municipality’s yearly electricity bill runs up to over 350,000 JD. These high electricity costs hinder the municipality from creating development projects or improving its services to the citizens.

The Sustainable Energy and Economic Development Project, signed in March of 2019, will be managed by Cowater Sogema with funds from the Canadian development fund and the JREEEF. Its objective is to install a 950-kW solar farm on lands provided by Deir Alla. By installing this solar farm, the municipality will mitigate the high cost of its electricity bill, and allow the reallocation of part of those funds to be used for the development of the community. Moreover, the municipality plans to continually reinvest the other portion of the savings into maintenance or expansion of the solar farm and to replace the old streetlights with energy saving LEDs.


Mayor Shati (seated-right) signing the solar power agreement with the Jordanian Prime Minister Omar Razzaz standing behind him.

Improving public awareness and transparency has become very crucial at this stage. The economic situation in Jordan has bred a sense of mistrust towards public institutions, so acting in parallel to the construction of the solar farm, the municipality will organize public awareness events about the project to increase governmental transparency and share the municipality’s vision on improving services. Holding these public meetings, listening to suggestions and concerns, and showcasing the ongoing initiatives to provide better services will start to instill greater understanding between Jordanians and their representatives.

The Rehabilitation and Improvement of The Tal Al Mantah Wastewater Treatment Plan

The Tal al Mantah plant, which falls under the jurisdiction of the Water Authority of Jordan (WAJ), is of high importance to the municipality of Deir Alla. It is the only domestic wastewater treatment plant in the area, one of the two treatment plants in all of the Jordan Valley, and the only option for treating the municipality’s domestic sewage. After years of neglect, the treatment plant has become rundown with many pieces of equipment needing maintenance or replacement. The mayor has expressed his concern about the plant because the water flowing out of the treatment plant does not fall within Jordanian standards, has polluted the environment and has caused several fires due to the lack of upkeep of the reed beds at the end of the treatment process which dry out during the summer.


The Entrance to the Tal al Mantah Wastewater Treatment Plant

EcoPeace Middle East is working on signing an agreement with WAJ to improve operating conditions at the Tal al Mantah plant. Its objectives are to install solar panels to supply the treatment plant with 90% of its yearly energy needs, to purchase water quality testing devices, and to conduct educational tours to the plant to address the lack of awareness regarding water treatment and reuse.

By installing solar panels, the treatment plant will have the burden of its high electricity costs lifted, allowing WAJ to shift the budget to the maintenance and upkeep of the plant’s equipment. Improving the operation of the plant will increase the quality of the treated effluent reducing the pollution in the area. In addition, the water quality testing devices will allow the plant operators to accurately determine whether the incoming water is domestic or industrial when previously they relied on visual and olfactory inspection. This allowed some unsuitable wastewater to enter and damage the equipment.


Two sludge thickeners in need of repair

There is much to be gained by improving communication and coordination between the central and local levels of government and this project is a good example of this. Despite the fact that the treatment plant does not fall under the jurisdiction of Deir Alla, the mayor still plans to follow up on its rehabilitation with EcoPeace and WAJ. In addition, this project will show that fostering cooperation between various governmental institutions will improve services provided to the citizens of Jordan.

Decentralization, Sustainability and the Ever-Present Deficit

Jordan’s decentralization initiative represents a great opportunity for local governments to take the reins and become empowered to work more closely with their constituents. These three projects show that sustainability and green practices can provide economical benefits while protecting the environment at the same time. Jordan’s economy is still in great need of development, but the advent of more affordable sustainable technologies represents an opportunity to improve the Jordan Valley’s standard of living without sacrificing the environment.

Another important concept that Jordanians need to keep in mind is the link between water and energy. A double whammy of both severe water scarcity and the high pumping costs puts Jordan in a tough spot. The projects mentioned in this article showed that installing solar panels in Jordan (one of the world’s sunniest countries) can be a huge opportunity for cash-strapped governmental organizations, but even more can be done.

Utilizing solar power to help expand the use of water conservation and reuse technologies is the path that Jordan should take to alleviate its water and energy issues. A pilot project has showcased one way to do that through the installation of solar panels and a greywater filtration system at the Abu Obaidah Shrine, a large mosque in Deir Alla. The grey water system, which was funded by the GIZ, is powered through solar energy and filters and cleans the water used by the worshipers during ablution so it can be reused in watering trees. This simple project shows that smaller decentralized solutions can be very useful in the absence of proper infrastructure.


Some of the trees watered using treated greywater in the Abu Obaidah shrine

In the coming years, Jordanians hope that their country’s decentralization initiatives will put more power back in their hands and allow their local communities to flourish. Deir Alla’s actions go hand in hand with Jordan’s concept of decentralization and its continued planning and sustained efforts to improve its services shows that it is model for the rest of the Jordan valley. There are many opportunities to foster both sustainable and economic development in the Valley and by working together, the local and central governments, civil society and international donor organizations can seize those opportunities for the betterment of the underdeveloped communities in the valley.

Contributed by: Fadi Kardan – EcoPeace Middle East – Jordan

Photos of the Mayor and the Sorting Facility are courtesy of the Deir Alla Municipality. All other photos are by EcoPeace.

Posted by: EcoPeace Middle East | April 11, 2019

Climate March 2019

yuval.jpgOn the 29th of March 2019, EcoPeace staff participated in the Climate March, the largest environmental event in Israel organized by the municipality of Tel Aviv-Jaffa and a group of major Israeli environmental organizations. Early in the morning, EcoPeace staff ran a booth in Meir Park to raise awareness about the effects of climate change on the MENA region, the necessity of a trans-boundary cooperation with regards to water issues, and to inform the public about the numerous projects organized by EcoPeace to achieve this goal. Amy and Yuval, two members from EcoPeace’s Tel Aviv office, shared EcoPeace’s values of peace, cooperation and respect of nature. Then, Sarah Henkel, a research assistant and I, an intern at the Tel Aviv office, joined the voices of thousands of activists, students, families, schools and artists and marched to Kiryat Hamemshala to ask for concrete actions from the Israeli government. More than 4, 000 people from all over the country protested and carried banners with slogans like “We want clean air”, “Climate Change knows no borders “, and “Water knows no borders”.


When I arrived at Meir park, I was really impressed to see so many environmental organizations such as Green Course, Zalul, Greenpeace, and the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel gathering their force to ask for climate justice and the inclusion of the environmental protection in the political agenda. At a time of political election, it is all the more regrettable to notice that only very few parties decided to tackle environmental issues and include concrete measures in favour of the protection of the environment.

Yet, the climate crisis is a real and urgent issue that implies immediate actions, especially in our region. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) identified the MENA region as a climate change hot spot due to its natural water scarcity, low levels of socio-ecological resilience, social tensions and political conflicts, and ongoing immigration crisis. According to the last report published by EcoPeace (available at http://www.ecopeaceme.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/climate-change-web.pdf ), climate change will threaten regional security, exacerbate water stress and have numerous negative impacts regarding the environment and the socio-economic situation of the Middle East.

Even though the government does not pay enough attention to this crisis, some more local entities, like cities, seem to be more dedicated. Co-organized by the Environment and Sustainability authority of Tel Aviv-Jaffa municipality, this march was the opportunity for the city to affirm its strong commitment to take bold climate actions. In 2017, Tel Aviv-Jaffa has joined the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group, together with more than 90 other cities, to ensure that its strategic urban transformation will follow a sustainable path and to help achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement. Indeed, Israel ratified the Climate Agreement in November 2016 and adopted a commitment to reduce by 2030 per capita greenhouse gas emissions to 26% below the 2005 level (source: Israeli Ministry of Environmental Protection, http://www.sviva.gov.il/).

3   The following Friday, the Israeli civil society also rallied to the movement happening all over the world, following the Climate marches that occurred in Paris and Montreal during March 2019. The cultural diversity of Israel is a powerful symbol to reflect the international dimension of the climate crisis. Coming from France, I marched with Sarah, from Germany, and friends from Brazil, the United States and the Netherlands. We could hear people speaking in Hebrew, Arabic, English, French or Portuguese on the streets. Apparently, climate action has no cultural borders! I was also particularly thrilled by the major presence of women during the rally. Sarah told me “Look at all the women using megaphones and asking for climate justice!” According to the UN, Climate Action needs women, especially because climate change has a greater impact on the most vulnerable parts of the population, especially women. Ensuring the participation of women and strengthening their leadership in the environmental field represent an essential way to implement effective climate solutions and build climate resilience (source: https://unfccc.int/news/5-reasons-why-climate-action-needs-women).  In a joyful atmosphere, Sarah and I marched along with these women, surrounded by students, teenagers and children. People from all generations, from all ages, were present to ask for a structural change in our relation with nature:  “Vote to protect our planet!”


Contributed by: Naomie Lecard – EcoPeace Intern

Posted by: EcoPeace Middle East | April 2, 2019

Ceremony to Honor Individuals that Aided Suffering Refugees

Sheikh Hussien, North Jordan (March 28th, 2019) – The Italian Embassy in Jordan, Gariwo, EcoPeace Middle East and the Governor of the North Shuna Directorate, honored two individuals, a Jordanian and an Italian, who have rescued and aided in reducing the suffering of refugees. The ceremony took place in the Sharhabiel bin Hassnah EcoPark.


From Left to Right:  Rakan Al Qadi, Vito Fiorino, Yana Abu Taleb, Jehad Mattar, and Manuela Rippo

Major General Jehad Mattar was greatly involved in improving the humanitarian conditions of thousands of Syrian refugees in Jordan. His work includes overseeing the implementation of projects that improved the living conditions and infrastructure in the refugee camps and surrounding areas, creating a projects database related to the camps and surrounding areas, and developing national plans to respond to all refugee issues, including security, voluntary repatriation, residence, resettlement and humanitarian services.

Vito Fiorino, a carpenter and fisherman, saved the lives of 47 drowning migrants during one of the worst tragedies on to occur on the Mediterranean Sea where hundreds of migrants lost their lives. His brave actions allowed the refugees to survive safely and migrate to Northern Europe. Despite the fact that the refugees live far away, they visit him every year on the anniversary of this event, where they call him Papa. Fiorino has never stopped calling for major institutions to be more committed in solving the refugee crisis in Italy.

To start off the ceremony, EcoPeace’s Jordanian director Yana Abu Taleb, the governor of the North Shuna Directorate Rakan al Qadi, and Manuela Rippo from Gariwo spoke about the honoree’s work. Following that Mr. Jehad and Mr. Vito spoke about their unique experiences working with and rescuing refugees and migrants.


After the speeches, the honorees had their names inscribed in stone and a tree planted in their honor as part of a ceremony to honor their important work.  The stones were placed in the EcoPark’s “Garden of the Righteous” which was founded by Gariwo and the Italian Embassy in 2017 to honor the following important figures:  Wasfi Al Tal and Moath Al Kassasbah, Rox bin Al Azizi, Haifa’a Al Bashir, Zaha Jarnadaneh Manko, Anis Mansour Muasher and Ismail Khader. To cap off the event, the honorees and other participants were treated to lunch and were given a tour of the EcoPark.


Mr. Jehad Planting His Tree

Gariwo is an acronym for “Gardens of the Righteous Worldwide”, and it is a non-profit based in Milan that was founded in 1999. Gariwo created the “Gardens of the Righteous” initiative to heighten awareness and interest in the figures and the tales of the righteous women and men who fought and are still fighting in defense of human dignity all around the world. They established the European Day of the Righteous on March 6th after approval from the European Parliament.

Contributed by: Fadi Kardan – EcoPeace Middle East – Jordan

From the 15th to the 16th of January, EcoPeace Jordan hosted representatives from the Global Nature Fund (GNF). The GNF are EcoPeace’s German counterpart in the BMZ and Wilo Foundation funded project to install solar panels at the Tal al Mantah wastewater treatment plant and to create a green filter/constructed wetland at the SHE Park.

The visit started with a meeting at EcoPeace Jordan’s office. During this meeting we discussed the general progress of the project as well as future avenues for cooperation.

image001Following this meeting, the GNF were given a tour of the Tal al Mantah treatment plant. They were able to see, in person, the many issues facing the plant as well as hear the history of the plant and listen to the operators’ suggestions to improve its functionality. During the tour, several tankers were being emptied into the plant so we invited one of the tanker drivers to speak to the GNF and give his opinion on the status of the plant and how its operation affects his livelihood.

After this EcoPeace and the GNF took part in a stakeholder meeting with the Mayors ofimg_3293 Deir Alla, Pella, their heads of engineering, representatives from Water Authority of Jordan, a representative Jordan Valley Authority and a representative from the local civil society. This meeting was organized to inform these local stakeholders about the project. We discussed the goals of the project, such as how the GNF and the German government would want to make the treatment plant a model for best practice in Jordan, and how the Green Filter can be used as a decentralized and cost-effective complement to traditional wastewater treatment facilities.

At the conclusion of the meeting the stakeholders showed a great interest in the application of Green Filters in the Jordan valley and expressed their unanimous support and cooperation regarding our project. The visit concluded with a second tour of the Tal al Mantah wastewater treatment plant that included the stakeholders where they could understand the difficulties that the operators are trying to overcome while running it.


Contributed by Fadi Kardan, EcoPeace Middle East -Jordan.
Posted by: EcoPeace Middle East | January 3, 2019

EcoPeace’s workshop on ‘Water Security and Environmental Peacebuilding’

(58)From the 10th to the 15th of December, EcoPeace hosted a first of its kind workshop on ‘Middle East Water Security and Environmental Peacebuilding’. Participants from all over the world flew to Jordan to partake in an educational exchange of experiences on the topic of sustainable water use and peacebuilding. The workshop took place at the Sharhabil bin Hassneh EcoPark, a beautiful ecological park in the north of Jordan where guests can sleep in wooden cabins surrounded by flourishing flowers and wildlife.

            The key subject of the workshop was ‘environmental peacebuilding’, with a focus on the nexus between water management and peacebuilding. This form of promoting peace and stability argues that due to the fact that nature has no borders, environmental cooperation has the opportunity to go beyond political borders promoting dialogue that can establish a level of trust between different communities and break down the barriers that exist in a conflict situation.

            EcoPeace presented its “Good Water Neighbours” (GWN) project that began in 2001 with a focus on shared water resources in the region of Jordan, Palestine and Israel. Water is a highly-contested issue in this region due to the large number of shared water sources  such as, the Jordan River and the Dead Sea. These bodies of water are, to various degrees, exploited by all three countries, which divert or pollute them by discharging their untreated or poorly treated sewage into them.  As an example, EcoPeace has estimated that Israel, Jordan and Syria have diverted such large quantities of water from the Jordan and Yarmouk river, that the former has shrunk to 5% of its original flow. One of the consequences of this water policy is the shrinking of the Dead Sea.

Different elements of the GWN project were discussed, all of which aim to create awareness of water scarcity issues and to promote peace and stability in the region. For example one project component involves getting youth involved by organizing regional meetings, summer camps, conferences and workshops about water. Several of the youth that partook in these activities attended the workshop to speak about their experiences.

Another presentation was about the GWN project being a platform for local communities (290)from the three different countries, from farmers to authorities, to communicate and work together. Two local mayors came to speak about their experiences with EcoPeace. One of them spoke about the help that EcoPeace offered by conducting feasibility studies on efficient water distribution in his municipality.

The international participants shared their experiences with water management and environmental peacebuilding in their own context. Two participants from Bosnia- Herzegovina for example, with the help of EcoPeace applied the GWN model to their own region. Their organisation, Centre for Ecology and Energy, used cooperation over water to tackle the political and ethnic tensions that exist over shared water resources in the Balkans. A second organisation from Kurdistan (Iraq), DOVY, talked about their experiences in bringing together Christian, Yazidi and Arab, youth at camps to learn about water issues. A third example is a participant from Nepal, who’s organisation ICIMOD works with eight different countries in South Asia, including India, China, Pakistan and Afghanistan. ICIMOD is considering using the GWN model to bring together grassroots organisations and government authorities.

Other organisations shared experiences in environmental work that are new to EcoPeace, such as the Chilean Geute Conservation and Restoration organisation. Geute protects the environment in Chile by providing legal counselling and bringing cases against environmental pollution to national courts. An example they shared was their work on the issue of fish farming, particularly the salmon industry, that pollutes large bodies of water by dumping dead fish. Geute proposed regulation and solutions to this problem in cooperation with other NGOs. Present during the workshop was also the first female marine biologist of Bahrein who with her organisation Inspiring Change and others educates Bahraini youth through educational talks, workshops and educational trips.

Aside from the different lectures and presentations, the group of participants embarked on several sight-seeing trips. They visited the Baptism sight of Jesus in the Jordan River where one of the EcoPeace staff members talked about its deteriorating condition. EcoPeace has incorporated religion into its sustainable water initiatives due to the fact that the water resources in the region have important meaning for the three monotheistic religions: Judaism, Christianity and Islam. This visit to the baptism site was accompanied by a visit to a Lutheran Church in Jordan’s capital city Amman where a Rabbi, a Sheikh and a Catholic Priest spoke about the importance of safeguarding nature in their respective religions.

Another visit was to the ancient Greek Decapolis city Umm Qais, known for its ancient ruins of Gadara. During the trip the group saw the King Abdullah Canal, which runs parallel to the east bank of the Jordan River and is Jordan’s largest water carrier. The canal receives water from the Yarmouk river. Part of the water also comes from the Sea of Galilee located in Israel, in compliance with the water regime established by the Israeli-Jordanian Peace Treaty.

(720)Although the five day workshop went by fast, the amount of information shared between the participants was of countless value. EcoPeace will incorporate all this information into its future projects, such as its Water Energy Nexus initiative that promotes regional interdependence in the region. Participants also expressed their gratitude and appreciation of the elevating workshop and will keep in touch with EcoPeace about their future endeavors as well as any potential to work together.

Contributed by Desiree Custers - EcoPeace Middle East, Amman office.

Posted by: EcoPeace Middle East | August 8, 2018

Annual Regional Youth Girls Water Trustee Empowerment Camp

I had the great pleasure of attending the Annual Regional Youth Girls Water Trustee Empowerment Camp this weekend from the 2nd of august until the 4th of august 2018. The camp was held in the Sharhabil Bin Hassneh Ecopark and centered around the issue of gender empowerment and environmental friendly behaviour, and was attended by Jordanian, Palestinian and Israeli men and women.

38647477_2300165636711701_2670926327569186816_n (1)The first day started off with a dinner, where I noticed that the different nationalities were sitting clearly separated, followed by a general introduction to the daily work of EcoPeace Middle East, and some icebreaking games, where the different nationalities were mixed into smaller groups. It was here interesting to see, how the icebreaking games connected the participants across country borders, and served as a starting point for new interesting conversations.

On the second day, there were a trip to the ruin of the Ajloun Castle in northern Jordan,20180803_122304 were we did some sightseeing while learning about Jordanian history . At first, I could not grasp the theme of the trip to castle, as it seemed to me that people were again separated into their national groups, but as we stood atop the castle the meaning became clear; on a clear day you could see as far as Jerusalem from the castle. The viewpoint atop the castle suddenly represented the three national identities, and it was obvious to the participants, how interconnected the region is from an environmental point of view.

20180803_145019Next we were driven to the Ajloun Oak Forest, where we did an activity I found particularly interesting. The group was divided into cross- border pairs, and then they had to direct their blindfolded partner through a rocky and thorny landscape. It was delightful to see, how some pairs overcome the language barrier between Hebrew and Arabic, and laughed as they walked along the difficult path. As we came back to the starting point, the group was asked to reflect over the activity, where some surprising observations saw its light. A young Palestinian man compared the exercise to a hand, where the different fingers symbolizes the different nationalities, which are all connected to the same hand. They were neither Palestinian, Israeli or Jordanian citizens during the exercise, but only human beings, who sought to cooperate over finding the right path.

I furthermore noticed that during the reflection session, almost no one was sitting in their national group, but chose to sit close to their partner, which showed a clear sign of the objective of the exercise as social coherence and solidarity within the group.

Afterwards, the group was asked to sit in their national groups, to discuss gender mainstreaming in each country, followed by a short presentation of their discussion. The Israeli group highlighted the gap between men and women in the educational system, and the pressure of conservative and orthodox religions on women in the public sphere. 20180803_150505The Palestinians referred to especially the 2000 intifada (Arabic for rebellion) against the Israeli occupation, where many men died in the uprising, leaving the woman as the leader of the household. This made the woman more independent, as the Palestinian society here realized that the woman could act as the leader of the household, and deal with tasks, which were normally meant for men. Nevertheless, the Palestinian also highlighted the need for more governmental policies, as it is difficult for a woman to be a stakeholder in the Palestinian system, and furthermore, the need for a change in the belief system of women, as many women believe they cannot perform certain tasks typically associated with men. And lastly, the Jordanian group focused on the lack of possibilities for women in the educational system, as well as the daily harassment of women in the public sphere. Additionally, this group put the question of responsibility forward, and asked the different groups to reflect upon the responsibility of men and women in society, and how men could help to empower women in the societal sphere.

When we were back in the SHE EcoPark we heard three short presentations on female empowerment, with the Palestinian Amira Adnan Musallam on her peace activism and environmental work, the Israeli-Palestinian Zubaida Ezery on her project on grey water systems in Bedouin communities, and the Jordanian Derar Al-Muhasen on his volunteer experiences as a leader in his local community. The different speakers talked from their personal experiences with empowerment and peace, and the group was left thoughtful and quite solemn at the end of the different presentations.

The evening ended with a “Hafla”, Arabic for a get-together, a party, over good music and a bonfire. The group here shared traditional dancing, smoked shisha, as well as talked and laughed late into the evening. A subject of interest to all was the relatedness of the languages of Arabic and Hebrew, and as the night grew thicker, it was clear that friendships were created across borders.

The last day consisted of a short tour of the EcoPark, followed by two lectures from firstly project coordinator from the Palestinian EcoPeace, Mahmud Driaat, who gave a talk on the importance of women in sustainable water management. One of his main points were here that women were essential to include in decision-making on water issues, as they were often the ones handling the water. This presentation was followed by a presentation from the Israeli EcoPeace coordinator Dr. Shlomit Tamari, who talked about the importance of women in public spaces. She here highlighted the overall gender mainstreaming in the world, as well as the correlation between water shortage and violence, where women are the first to be harmed.

38506617_2300165983378333_3514554077411278848_nThe session ended with a reflection on the regional environmental cooperation, where the group discussed gender realities in their different countries, environmental challenges and empowerment. There was here a heated discussion of the effects of either top-down or bottom-up peace initiatives that I found quite intriguing, as well as the agreement among the Palestinians that peace and co-existence is the way forward. To which an Israeli man said: “if we all take our own share of the water, without thinking about our common responsibility, there will be no future for either of us”.

On this matter, all the participants agreed. Without regional cooperation over water issues, and responsible consumption of water, their future would indeed look dark. For me, this was an intriguing new form of peacebuilding, as after all, water knows no borders.


This article contributed by Miriam Jensen, EcoPece Middle East - Amman.
Posted by: EcoPeace Middle East | August 5, 2018

August 2018 – EcoPeace Middle East Environmental Peacebuilding Newsletter

Announcement: Appointment of New Jordanian Director


EcoPeace’s Board of Directors is pleased to announce the appointment of Ms. Yana Abu Taleb as the new Jordanian Director of the organization, effective the 1st of August 2018. The board has expressed its gratitude to Munqeth Mehyar for his decades of leadership and is delighted that Mr. Mehyar has accepted the title of President.

Upon her appointment, Ms. Abu Taleb stated: “My commitment to EcoPeace Middle East is due to my deep understanding of the challenges the region faces and the unique role the organization plays in meeting those challenges”.

Mr. Mehyar added “I am proud to pass on the leadership of the Jordanian office to Ms. Abu Taleb who has proven herself as an effective leader through her many years with the organization. I am delighted to move to my new role advising the board and the three directors.”  

Please join us in thanking Munqeth for his years of dedication and wishing Yana all the best in her new role.


EcoPeace will hold the first of its kind Workshop on Middle East Water Security and Environmental Peacebuilding, which will take place from 10 to 15 December in Jordan, with the possibility to continue on a 2 day trip in Israel/Palestine, on 16-17 December. Participation is open to civil society organizations, especially those working in conflict areas, and limited space is also available for individuals from academia, think tanks, development agencies and foundations interested in our unique methodology. Civil society organizations coming from conflict areas may be eligible for financial support. The workshop will create opportunities for an exchange of experiences and capacity building and will allow participants to gain a deeper understanding of the complexities and best practices of environmental peacebuilding with a special focus on fostering dialogue and cooperation on the protection, equitable and sustainable use of water and environmental resources.

Apply soon, Space is limited. Visit our website for more information.

The EcoPeace Program on Water Security is supported by the Bosch Foundation

Annual Regional Female Watershed Forum Training

Big JumpJordanian, Israeli, and Palestinian men and women came together for a workshop from July 12-14th at Sharhabil Bin Hassneh EcoPark to encourage and support women to continue to take a greater role in decision-making within the water and sanitation sectors. The participants bonded through group discussions about the water problems they faced, including their many similarities. The group was later treated to several “success stories” from Palestinian, Israeli, and Jordanian women who were already taking leadership roles and making a difference in their communities and served as inspirational examples.

Symposium on Regional Cooperation on Reclaimed Water

On July 18th, EcoPeace held an Israeli – Palestinian symposium on the “Centralization vsWater symposium Decentralization of Waste Water Reuse” at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. Participants included officials, experts, entrepreneurs and farmers from Israel and Palestine. The focus of the event was to illustrate ways in which Israel and Palestine need to cooperate to solve shared sanitation and water problems.


Dead Sea Site Visit – Ecotourism Workshop, Jordan

Dead Sea workshopThis workshop on ecotourism, held July 19th-21st, assessed avenues for incorporating ecotourism into several industries and offered inspiration and advice for those seeking to enter the field. The workshop began with instructive presentations on the Dead Sea, and then participants got to experience several ongoing operations in the Dead Sea area. Some highlights of the trip included fair-trade artisanal products; a farm-to-table assembly; an organic moringa farm; and a tour of Dana Village, and the story of how the introduction of ecotourism revitalized the entire community. The benefits and challenges unique to ecotourism were discussed at each of the sites.

Farmers Training

In cooperation with MASHAV—Israel International Aid Agency, EcoPeace conducted twoFarmers training farmers’ trainings. In these trainings farmers all across the West Bank came to learn about opportunities they might have on wastewater reuse for irrigation. These trainings were led by instructors from Israel’s extension service and local Arabic-speaking farmers.



Hebron Governorate Meetings

Hebron meetingEcoPeace organized a steering committee meeting for the purpose of coordinating a group of town hall meetings in Hebron governorate and prepared the agenda of the next town hall meeting in Yatta to reach out to all stakeholders. EcoPeace communicated with PWA, EQA, MOA and MOH and shared the draft plan for the upcoming meetings to present the PA point of view.

The Good Water Neighbors (GWN) project is supported by the Swedish International Development Agency and USAID CMM West Bank / Gaza. Activities conducted in Hebron/Negev/Basin are additionally supported by the Government of Canada.

Jericho Governorate

EcoPeace conducted a very successful set of meetings in Jericho. A meeting with theJericho meeting Governor of Jericho and his advisory team discussed the importance of the Jordan Valley Master Plan for Palestine. EcoPeace visited the Jericho Agricultural and Industrial Park (JAIP) and had a very successful meeting with the relevant authority PIEFZA. EcoPeace presented the Jordan Valley Master Plan and the Water Energy Nexus Projects, and PIEFZA showcased the JAIP progress and the next phases.

Round Table Meeting on the 4th of July in Jordan

In cooperation with the South Ghour Governorate and the Alliance of Charitable South Ghor meetingFoundations, EcoPeace Jordan organized a Round Table in South Ghour. The event was attended by the local community representatives and the Secretary General of WAJ and his team. The aim of the meeting was to listen and receive feedback from residents in relation to water issues facing their communities. It was agreed during the meeting that the priority for South Ghour is to plan and implement sanitation solutions. After the meeting, the delegation from WAJ toured the desalination plant of Ghour Safi and the pumping station at Ghour Haditha. The tour concluded by visiting locals at their homes to ensure that they have access to water supply.

Tour to Key Environmental Projects in the Jordan Valley

Jordan Valley projectsOn July 25-26, EcoPeace Jordan office organized a follow-up event to the town hall meeting from earlier this year to visit key environmental developments in the north of Jordan. The tour was attended by 41 mayors, stakeholders and members of government authorities. The tour included a visit to the Al Samra wastewater treatment plant, Akaider dumpsite, Al Husseiniat composting factory, Zai Water Treatment Unit, and paper recycling sites. The tour culminated by signing a call for the creation of a Trust Fund in support of the Jordan Valley Master Plan and the identified priorities.

Decoupling Water Resources in the Middle East

EcoPeace participated in the launch meeting for a research project in partnership with Oxford University and the WANA Institute. This research initiative in the Jordan Valley investigates water use efficiency in agriculture in Israel and Jordan and aims to build on the region’s progress.  

The Jordan River Rehabilitation project is supported by the Swedish International Development Agency (Sida)


Posted by: EcoPeace Middle East | July 24, 2018

The Annual Regional Female Watershed Forum Training

On the 2nd week of July, EcoPeace held the Annual Regional Female Watershed Forum Training and I had the pleasure to take part as a “reporter”. The event gathered Jordanian, Palestinian and Israeli with theme of advancing the role for women in environmental cooperation, shared water and sanitation projects of common concern.

Bedouin Women x Water


Enter a Salim Al-Karmi shares his research with Fertile Crescent Association on Bedouin community in Area C of Palestine.

In a presentation by Salim Al-Karmi, we were introduced to his research with the Fertile Crescent Association on the Bedouin population who are not connected to water network in Area C, Palestine. What was specifically brought about was gender role in relation to water in the Bedouin households. While women in families are clear of the actual consumption of water and know exactly what should be done, it is men, in Bedouin tradition, who make decisions. Being left out from decision-making at household level, the women, however, decided to come together and start doing smart things collectively, such as organising among themselves to store and exchange clean water, as well as reusing water. Following up the presentation was a discussion on whether the Bedouin religious way of women getting water and socialising should be replaced by technology. One thing is clear: Women should be brought to the middle of discussion so that everyone, despite their gender, can work together, make decisions and solve problems in a smart way.

 6 Women x Action

Another major component of the 3-day cross-border event was the sharing of 6 women


At the open plaza at SHE Park, friends from Jordan, Palestine and Israel gather and are intrigued by different speakers from across the borders. Sharings are always translated between Arabic and Hebrew by Zubaida (standing on the right).

from Jordan, Palestine and Israel on their experience and vision. “If something bothers you, don’t sit on the couch — do something!” said Sarit Oked, one of the speaker in the event. This quote to me has powerfully summarised the 6 sharings from the women of different regions who are facing and acting upon different problems and challenges.

While Kawther Al-Edwan, being the president of a Jordanian charity and the 1st woman in her community to work, introduced her organisation’s mission in improving livelihoods of Jordanian women in various difficult situations; Aseer Gawarneh, from Palestinian Rural Women Association, showed us how women in communities are equipped with skills such as making handicrafts.

Yonat Mordoch, recounted her delightful and adventurous experience of turning away from biology studies to learning from Bedouin’s traditional in medicine and passing on the wisdom through her soap-making business in Israel; whereas Manar Madanat, the southern region director of the Higher Council for the Affairs of Persons with Disabilities, spoke with us her passionate work-in-progress with fighting for the rights of disabled persons in Jordan, and encouraged an involvement of deaf and speech-impaired people and sign language interpreters in this event.


Friends from the floor actively respond to the sharing on stage and bring different perspectives to the table.

Journalist Maha Abu Ein stirred a couple of conversations on women’s roles and possibilities in Palestine, and showed us her critical documentary titled “Struggle of Palestinian Farmers”; Sarit Oked, on the other hand, shared her voluntary projects, one on founding a democratic school where children are the decision-makers of their own learning, another one on standing up against phosphate industry’s deadly emission in Arad, Israel. Fighting for the rights of the underrepresented groups, passing on the otherwise overlooked traditions with creative crafts & business, and equipping particular communities with specific skills and knowledge, are a few of the strategies and actions of empowerment that are inspiringly demonstrated by the speakers.

Site Tour x Water Infrastructure


Solid waste washed down to King Abdullah Canal in Al Masharaa at Jordan Valley.

Site-tours were conducted along the Jordan Valley, where problems of water sanitation and lack of proper infrastructure network were not merely told as distant issues but materialised in front of us as we got to the ground and walked through the rural fabric. Visits along the Jordan Valley – through the 150,000-people population Al Masharaa community, where grey water is released to canal and sewage flushed to cesspits; then to Tal Al Mantah Waste Water Treatment Plant, where water treatment work is still to be upgraded; and to Karameh Dam, where fresh water is stored but lost significantly by evaporation – have shown to us that water infrastructure, from grey


We stand beside the Karameh Dam under the burning sun, visualising how a significant volume of fresh water in the dam are evaporating to the open air.

water and sewage collection network to waste water treatment and efficient storage, are urgently important yet lacking. What adds to the severity of problem in clean water access is the missing of a sound solid waste management system and awareness, causing a contamination of surface water and underground water by waste dumping.


More Dialogues & Sharing

The discussion and feedback session on the final day have inspiringly concluded the event. It is important to include all stakeholders’ voices in decision-making discussion.


Participants from Jordan, Palestine and Israel share their personal experiences and viewpoints on water & gender issues in their community.

If anyone is left outside, the result is that either people leave, or people’s needs stay answered. One recurring comment from different friends in the event has been on connecting people. People on different sides – from Jordan, Palestine and Israel –  should get together beyond an annual event and beyond borders. Rather than point fingers at each other, we should – and could –  identify and understand common problems, stand up together to raise awareness, get our voices heard – and act together.

Participants from Jordan, Palestine and Israel share their personal experiences and viewpoints on water & gender issues in their community. The Jordanian community express a concern over kids and adults suffering from kidney diseases because of unclean water; those from Palestinian community describe how women have to carry water all the way from edge of town back home and a severe contamination of upstream water by uncontrolled grey water disposal and solid waste; and some from the Israeli community points out that desalinated water lacks the mineral and nutrients for healthy crops. Furthermore, climate change is impacting all the farming communities in the region and “hit us in our face” in the past 10 years.

A picture i would like to share with you,


Standing at a forest where solid wastes are dumped on the ground, we conclude the 3-day event: some express honestly the need for a deeper & comprehensive address on the issues of women and water, some call for the forming of long lasting relationship for an exchange of problems and solutions, and some critically point out actual actions to be undertaken following up the dialogues in the event.

This article contributed by Mandy Mui, EcoPeace Middle East - Amman.

Jordanian and Israeli farmers get to know one another during the opening round of introductions at the EcoPark

From June 28-30th Jordanian and Israeli farmers met for a cross-border workshop to learn more about biodynamic agriculture and to discuss some of the common challenges facing farmers in the Jordan Valley on both sides of the border. As a new intern for EcoPeace, this was my first time being in the Jordan Valley and it was a far cry from the water abundant fields in my home of Ohio, USA. I was excited to learn more about the environmental challenges specific to this area and to meet new people.

The workshop began with dinner and introductions at the Sharhabil bin Hassneh EcoPark, breaking into small circles of mixed groups which created a personalized atmosphere for the attendees to get to know each other. I really enjoyed seeing the cultural exchange that occurred as the farmers traded jokes and stories with each other in three different languages—Arabic, English, and Hebrew—often jumping between them in the same sentence. Participants also discussed why they chose to take part in the workshop. They included reasons such as to meet people from a different culture that still share the same career and goals, to learn more about biodynamics, and to make new connections that could be used to work together in the future.

The next morning, the group took a site tour of area grape, citrus, pomegranate, and dateIMG_0820 farms and analyzed the different soil types and irrigation methods at each one. Water was the theme of the morning as farmers yearned to know the most efficient way to get healthy plants for the least amount of expensive water. However, after digging into the dirt at each of the farms, we found that using water and fertilizer on the greater area surrounding the plant was important to its overall health, and skimping too much on water use would ultimately result in harmful effects long-term. The ideal soil would have a high water-holding quality. As a geology student, I appreciated getting our hands dirty and digging into the dirt to check out the health of the soil. It was interesting to visually see how the soil in two farms neighboring each other could significantly differ based on the irrigation methods used by the farmer that contributed to the general health of the soil.


The site tours continued to a date farm down the road

Biodynamic agriculture is a holistic approach that seeks to improve the health and output of crops by implementing techniques that work in harmony with the already occurring natural processes. It recognizes the inherent connection between water, nutrients, sunlight and soil to plant health, and how all the parts must work together to be effective. It also stresses the importance of working with the community and buying produce locally on the consumer’s end. This was my first interaction with the idea of biodynamics, but I was able to see the importance of working in harmony with the environment and not “against” it, especially in a climatically harsh area like the Jordan Valley.

Being on-the-ground in these places allowed me to personally observe the intense water scarcity and hear each farmer describe their struggle, which gave me tangible evidence for the environmental issues I had only read about up to that point; it was a chance for me to formally encounter what I had been researching. The farmers participating in the workshop had a lot of knowledge to contribute, and each shared their experiences and farming techniques, and resulted in the farmers learning from each other just as much as they learned from the presenter.


A formal presentation about biodynamic agriculture followed the morning farm tours

That trip led to a series of informative presentations on biodynamics, where farmers learned more about the concept and generated ideas for implementation. The workshop concluded with small group discussions where participants worked together to come up with solutions for their soil, water, and marketing problems. At the very least, participants gained the realization that many of the problems they faced were happening at a systematic level, and they were not the only one having to deal with it. Joining in on this workshop not only taught me more about biodynamics, but I got a chance to meet so many inspiring people from across the Jordan Valley.

This article contributed by Nicole Pasho, EcoPeace Middle East - Amman.

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