Northern Badia Cluster: Plentiful growth in an unlikely place: Al Mafraq Governorate
Cluster Villages: Al-Mukayfita, Ar-Rifa’yyat, Qasim, Umm Al-Quttayn
Community Type: Rural Bedouin
Location. The Northern Badia Cluster is located in the northeastern section of the Northern Badia of Jordan, close to the Syrian border. The cluster is approximately 45 km from the city of Al-Mafraq, 150 km northeast of the capital, and about 440 km from Aqaba city. Until the 1920s, the area was uninhabited, with the exception of Umm al-Quttayn. Northern Badia is an area of Jordan with a long tradition of Bedouin lifestyle. RCCDP has designed projects that strengthen such traditions and creatively maximize natural resources.
Description. The Northern Badia has an arid landscape with only two seasons, summer and winter. The annual precipitation is 100-250 mm, which is scattered over the year. The low rainfall and the high evaporation rate cause drought problems. Temperatures range from below 0 degrees Celsius during the winter and reach highs of above 45 degrees Celsius in the summer.
The desert soil is characterized by its low water penetration capacity, as well as its low organic composition. This is due to the presence of basalt generated from ancient volcanic activity. The vegetative cover is sparse, mainly consisting of olive trees. Some grape vines, small trees, and other shrubs are also evident, but mostly around houses.
The cluster villages are at an altitude of 850-900 meters above sea level, and include the villages of Al-Mukayfita, Ar-Rifa’yyat, Qasim and Umm Al-Quttayn. The landscape generally consists of semi-arid land with hilly areas. The cluster’s total population is 7,770 inhabitants.
Problems and Challenges Facing the Area
- Some sections of the main east-west road connecting the villages of the cluster is in need of maintenance.
- Some small villages suffer from a lack of internal and secondary roads, and residents rely on the bus service to the other cluster villages (private car ownership is widespread).
- All the houses and constructed buildings in the villages are connected to the power grid, but this power supply is intermittent.
- A municipal landfill is located within the cluster, and is used for municipal solid waste disposal. Most residents are concerned about groundwater contamination from the landfill.
- Pollutants also include plastic bags, and detritus from poultry farms.
- The over-use of agricultural chemicals and fertilizers.
- No liquid waste network exists, and residents rely mostly on septic tanks that are periodically emptied by private trucks.
- Harsh climate and droughts, especially over the past few years.
- Poor access to health care facilities. The village of Al-Mukayfita is 60 km from the nearest hospital.
- The community suffers from public health risks caused by fly infestations and the common practice of inter-marriages between cousins.
- Umm Al Quttayn is the only village that has a community center and police station.
- Umm al-Quttayn is the site of an ancient Roman village which is neglected and in dire need of touristic development and promotion.
- The area suffers from high levels of poverty (the total monthly income average is exceptionally low).
- 80% of the workforce in the cluster is employed in the public sector, while only 11 % works in the private sector, which reflects the high level of dependence on the government.
- The unemployment rate is 40% and is mainly caused by:
- The lack of vocational training - there are no vocational schools in any of the villages.
- Weak private sector investment activity and the lack of market opportunities.
- The abandonment of livestock-breeding as the traditional method to generate income. This is due to the harsh climate and the end of government subsidies for livestock feed which has left many people in a much worse situation. Families who have lost all or part of their flocks have been dragged into extreme poverty.
- The commercial sector is as low as 1% of the working population, mainly in the business of small local retail shops.
- Only 5% of the cultivable land is irrigated, and is mainly planted with tomatoes and melons.
Addressing the Local Needs of the Area
JRF created the Integrated Livelihood Farm Project in Northern Badia. The project aims at generating income for families in the area, and has introduced innovative technologies and a new breed of sheep, the Awasi. It also encouraged the creation of traditional handicrafts and promoted organic farming. Through strengthening the relationship between community members and local organizations, many aspects of life in the area have been improved.
The 42 dunum Integrated Livelihood Farm, located in Rawdat Al-Ameer Ali Bin Al-Hussein, consists of:
- A livestock shed for sheep and goats
- A production area for traditional Beit Sha’ir weaving
- A honey processing facility
- Areas for sun-drying tomatoes
- Advanced irrigation systems
- A vocational training center and offices for the local cooperative.
The project has provided 14 full-time jobs and over 3000 part-time jobs to members of the targeted community.
Another one of the creative endeavors of this project is the production and sale of honey. For a decade, the Badia Research and Development Program (BRDP) has been researching local bee cultivation, finding that they collect pollen in the desert border between Jordan and Syria. RCCDP has partnered with the BRDP in this cluster and applied their research, and distributed hives to members of the Co-operative and conducted training for them. The resulting organic honey is a unique and highly marketable product, generating revenue for the local co-operative and farmers.