Bustan Qaraaqa (The Tortoise Garden)
Bustan Qaraaqa is a brand new initiative in the Palestinian West Bank.
Bustan Qaraaqa is a Palestinian initiative supported by British environmental activists. Working closely with our neighbours, we are creating a model permaculture farm in the West Bank town of Beit Sahour (Shepherd's Fields) close to the world famous city of Bethlehem. The antique farmhouse nestles in a beautiful wadi (valley) between verdant mountains, overlooked by the ancient Herodian Mountain, the site of a palace built by King Herod himself over 2000 years ago. We invite willing volunteers to join us in our work, and at the same time discover Palestine and the Middle East: the crossroads of three continents, the birthplace of three world religions, the cradle of agriculture and of civilization. Bustan Qaraaqa is seeking to propagate a grassroots permaculture movement in the West Bank, working primarily with farmers and with youth. We believe passionately that permaculture can help to address some of the urgent challenges currently facing the Palestinian people. The Palestinian environment is degrading rapidly as a result of the combined forces of the global problems of population growth, industrialization and climate change; and the local problem of the ongoing Israeli military occupation of the Palestinian Territories, which hinders and disrupts attempts to implement environmental management. Palestinian farmers are struggling with land confiscation, limited water resources, movement restrictions and economic competition from markets that do not face the same problems. Palestinian youth are growing up increasingly disconnected from the environment, as more and more land is closed off by the Separation Wall and Palestinian cities are encircled and ghettoized. The conflict is robbing them of their childhood and darkening their futures. It is promoting the use of permaculture design to protect and restore the degrading environment, and restore dignity and self reliance to people living under the daily grind of ongoing military occupation. Permaculture design can help to preserve and restore the environment, produce foodstuffs and other goods for people suffering from economic crisis, create beautiful spaces amidst the carnage of the conflict, and engage people in constructive and positive activities, helping to relieve stress and restore a sense of dignity and empowerment to people suffering under brutal military occupation. Bustan Qaraaqa is now working closely with locally based organisations to conduct a series of educational workshops with hundreds of Palestinian youths. The workshops will focus on the themes of personal environmental responsibility and empowerment to create change. We will use building with rubbish and discarded tyres to create a play area and picnic site amidst the wildflowers and abandoned terraces of disused agricultural land. We are also in the early stages of implementing our permaculture design at Bustan Qaraaqa, creating a homegarden and sculpting and building a water catchment system for the site.