Jordanian Farmers Expect Fall in Production Due to Drought, Pests

As the situation in northern Jordan’s fertile agricultural regions looks increasingly dire, three organizations are stepping in to promote traditional and sustainable farming methods.
Jordan Valley
By Ephantus Mukundi
Nov. 22, 2021 16:00 UTC

Jerash is a highly pro­duc­tive agri­cul­tural region about 35 kilo­me­ters north of Amman, the cap­i­tal of Jordan. Its ancient groves are renowned for pro­duc­ing high-qual­ity olive oil.

However, high pro­duc­tion costs, demand for land from the tourism indus­try and recur­rent drought have increased the eco­nomic pres­sure grow­ers face and are threat­en­ing the groves, putting the country’s olive oil pro­duc­tion at risk.

See Also:2021 Harvest Updates

Due to the lack of rain­fall and scorch­ing tem­per­a­tures, olive farms reported a 20-per­cent decrease in the amount of fruit har­vested this year com­pared to last.

According to the International Olive Council data, Jordan pro­duced 25,000 tons of olive oil in the 2020/21 crop year, which is slightly above the rolling five-year aver­age, but far less than the record-high 34,500 tons recorded in 2019/20.

Rateb Silwan is among the remain­ing farm­ers in Jerash who antic­i­pate a poorer har­vest this year due to drought.

Last year, he pro­duced 1,200 liters of olive oil on his two-hectare piece of land. This year, he expects half of that. Two decades ago, he pro­duced 2,000 liters of olive oil each year.

Droughts were almost unheard of then,” he told The National. Now they hap­pen every four years or so.”

Since the 1950s, most of the farm­ers in north­ern Jordan have watered their crops from the East Ghor Canal, which is fed by the Yarmouk and Jordan rivers and rain­fall.

However, rapid pop­u­la­tion growth in Amman, the Israeli occu­pa­tion of the West Bank since 1967 and a dam con­structed by Syria on the Yarmouk have heav­ily depleted the amount of water avail­able for agri­cul­ture in Jordan.

In Najada, a vil­lage in Jerash that was once famous for pro­duc­ing olive oil, most inhab­i­tants have aban­doned tra­di­tional farm­ing and moved to urban areas in search of new sources of income.

The village’s prox­im­ity to the Debin Forest Reserve also puts its agri­cul­tural land under intense pres­sure from investors seek­ing to build tourist resorts.

See Also:The Best Olive Oils from Jordan

A few years ago, some of the remain­ing farm­ers imported genet­i­cally-mod­i­fied cul­ti­vars in a last-ditch effort to sal­vage the sit­u­a­tion.

However, their efforts were ulti­mately in vain as the trees could not deal with the emer­gence of new pests and dis­eases that were highly resis­tant to con­ven­tional meth­ods of con­trol­ling them.

Among the most per­ni­cious of the pests plagu­ing olive grow­ers in the region are var­i­ous insect species, vipers, moles and wild boar.

The heavy appli­ca­tion of pes­ti­cides also has unbal­anced the local ecosys­tem, which neg­a­tively impacted pro­duc­tiv­ity in the region.

However, efforts are under­way to help restore some of the region’s degraded land by return­ing to tra­di­tional farm­ing meth­ods and sus­tain­able land man­age­ment meth­ods.

BirdLife, the NGO that strives to con­serve birds and their habi­tats, has part­nered with the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund and the Jordanian-firm Enviromatics to encour­age farm­ers in Najda, specif­i­cally women, to take up tra­di­tional prac­tices.

The three orga­ni­za­tions have agreed to send experts to help 10 local farm­ers improve yields and more effec­tively con­trol pests in an envi­ron­men­tally friendly way.

This will be a great oppor­tu­nity to learn from other women and pro­duce high-qual­ity prod­ucts,” Abeer Freihat said about the triumvirate’s efforts.


Related Articles