Initiated in 2006, the Marda Permaculture Farm is a sustainable development NGO in the village of Marda in the West Bank of Palestine. A branch of the Global Village Institute, an international NGO based in Summertown, Tennessee, the Marda Farm was founded by permaculturist Murad Alkhufash, whose family has farmed the region for more than ten generations.
The original Marda Permaculture Farm, located just down the road from the current Farm, was abandoned in 2000 based on loss of funding and frequent harassment by Israeli military due to its location at the edge of town. However, the site still possesses mature orchards, gardens, rainwater catchment and graywater recycling models, swales, and other technologies and planting systems established as models of permaculture design.
Given the proper care and maintenance, the site could once again provide a vital source of food, seedlings and seeds for the community. It could also serve as a more mature, advanced—and much larger— model of a permaculture garden to compare to the new site.
The village of Marda (pop.2600) situated in the Salfit region of the West Bank is overlooked by the major Jewish settlement of Ariel (pop.35,000) and the Separation Wall. When the Separation Wall was completed around Marda in 2005, land and water resources previously owned by Palestinians were annexed and thousands of olive trees were destroyed.
Meanwhile, the rubbish and sewage from the settlement pollutes other water sources and litters Marda village (Ariel’s rubbish dump is just above the village). All over Palestine, the energy and food supply are controlled by the Israeli state, and prices are high. Over 75 % of residents in Marda are unemployed, for while many worked in Israel before the mid-1990’s many Marda residents worked in Israel, this has become severely less possible. The presence of the Ariel settlement means that the village of Marda cannot expand, and prevents easy travel to other villages in the region, in particular, to the regional center of Salfit.
The high rate of unemployment puts tremendous stress on a few wage earners to support their large extended families. At the same time, the cost of the most basic needs—food, water, and energy for electricity, heating and cooling, has risen at an alarming rate in recent years. Food and water insecurity is a problem because the people of Marda, who used to farm the land communally and grow much of their own produce, grains, and meat, have had much of their land taken by the Israeli settlement or Ariel.
They are forced to farm on smaller, less productive acreages. The settlement also takes an increasingly large share of the water supply from the area and as a result, water costs have risen to about 4 shekels per cubic meter. This makes it expensive for people to grow their own gardens, as it requires more water than the household normally uses. As a result, much of their produce is now purchased from other villages or from international sources, at very high cost.