Reflection on Wadi Attir
Yesterday, the Milken Global Fellows traveled to a sustainable, organic, Bedouin farm called Project Wadi Attir located in the Negev. What makes the farm unique is that the methodology of production is based on traditional Bedouin practice and values, but supported by modern technology. We had a tour of the farm’s seed bank, medicinal plants, cheese and dairy production, and sheep and goats, followed by a lively conversation about the financial sustainability of the project.
Figure 1: Map of Wadi Attir’s Land Use
The seed bank and medicinal plant production are projects that aim to preserve and showcase traditional Bedouin plants that have historically been used as natural medicines. These projects combat the risk of these plants being lost to the urbanization of the area over the past 40 years. We heard about Ali Alhawashla, a founding member of the project and a maven on 650 species of medicinal plants that grow in the Negev. The project aims to collect his expertise and put it into practice for the benefit of generations to come.
The herding and dairy projects focus on the sustainable raising of sheep and goats, both traditionally relied upon by the Bedouin community. The farm’s dairy currently produces a variety of high-quality milk products, and is moving toward utilization of all of the animals’ byproducts including herding byproducts, manure and wool. We heard about the dairy’s training program for women in the surrounding Bedouin communities, which teaches them employable skills like supervising dairy production. We also heard about the animal education and therapy programs for local youth that are being developed on the farm, cultivating new and beneficial relationships with traditionally used animals.
We were all persuaded that Wadi Attir was engaged in creating great social good, and in our concluding conversation, were challenged with the question: how can the farm be financially sustainable and independent?
Currently, Project Wadi Attir is funded by grants from different ministries of the Israeli government (Rural Development, The Negev and Galilee etc.), The Jewish National Fund and foundations and individuals from both America and Israel. To make Wadi Attir financially sustainable and independent based on its own products and services, the farm could do a few things: expand the farming land, and grow additional crops that would bring in higher profits, connect to more herb markets in Israel and abroad, build an eco-tourism program and center where tourists can come to learn about the medicinal plants of the Bedouin community, and contract with Birthright as an alternative Bedouin educational experience. All of these solutions would move Wadi Attir toward financial stability and independence, while capitalizing on and sustaining the social good and education it brings to the surrounding communities and to its visitors.