New Crop of Climate-Smart Farmers in Jordan will Feed Future Generations

Dec 04, 2023

Faced with less water, more intense droughts, warmer temperatures and disruptions in global food systems, Jordan is nurturing a new generation of climate-smart farmers while transforming its agri-food sector to become more resilient while creating jobs and greater value. The World Bank’s new agriculture program in Jordan, appropriately called "My Land" (or ARDI), is helping to strengthen food systems by spearheading more water-efficient and climate-resistant farming practices. Approved in 2022, ARDI (the Agriculture, Resilience, Value Chain Development and Innovation project) will provide about 30,000 farming households with financing. The $125 million project hopes to generate around 12,000 employment opportunities, particularly for women and youth who have often been excluded from the sector.

Women farmers such as Seham Bani Mustafa, who lives in Souf, a town in the Al-Burj area about 60 km from the capital Amman, are already seeing results. A small-scale fruit farmer, she received a grant for a new rainwater harvesting system under the program, which means she no longer waits for water to be delivered every two weeks. Now, she harvests water during wetter winter months and this nourishes her apricots, peaches, peas, beans and other vegetables.

"No matter how cautious one is about water usage, it's not enough," she said about previously having to rely on water deliveries. "But now with the reservoir, the situation has changed. We no longer worry about having access to water. We became self-sufficient," she said, adding that her small orchard produces pesticide-free fruits with the excess sold in local markets. She is also making a living by creating traditional soaps.

Like many countries, Jordan is seeking ways to address growing concerns over food insecurity. Last year the government launched a new National Food Security Strategy which identifies specific actions to make food systems stronger and provide employment. Jordan is one of the most water-scarce countries in the world and is adopting bold measures to boost efficiency and balance supply and demand of the precious resource.

Around a quarter of Jordan’s poor rely on agriculture for their income. Although primary agriculture contributes only 5.6 percent of GDP, when related value chain activities are included, the broader agri-food sector contributes about 20–25 percent of GDP.

One priority is boosting skills and training a new generation of farmers and agricultural specialists to use techniques that require less water and plant crops that are more resistant to drought and other climate-related threats. Fatima Abu Akleek, a 22-year-old graduate of the Jordan University of Science and Technology, has been trained in hydroponics and fish farming.

She is currently working at the Faisal Plant nursery in Jarash, a mountainous area northwest of Amman. Akleek is putting her new skills into practice. At the plant, fish grow in one tank and plants in another, with the nutrients produced by the fish converted into a non-chemical fertilizer product which then feeds the plants. By using this byproduct from the fish, the use of chemical fertilizers on vegetables is averted.

Another engineering graduate from the same university, Lina Madlboh, is also working on hydroponic and aeroponic farming, which cultivates plants in a mist environment, eliminating the need for soil. Alongside her family, she is growing the pricy saffron spice, using a closed incubator to preserve saffron bulbs which are cultivated indoors and not subject to extreme weather or soil-borne diseases. Such farming results in higher yields but requires intensive daily care and Madlboh’s family have hired local youth to help tend the saffron.

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