Ministry of agriculture aims to restore forests, ecological balance

Sub-headline: Kingdom plants 3m trees annually, utilizes AI to detect forest fires

ministry of Agriculture
Ministry of agriculture. (File photo: Jordan News)
AMMAN — Amid escalating climate change threats and wildfires, both natural and man-made, Jordan has embarked on a rigorous scientific and strategic approach to restore its ecological balance, Jordan News Agency, Petra reported.اضافة اعلان

Central to this initiative is the Ministry of Agriculture's program that facilitates the annual growth of 3 million forest trees. Remarkably, these are distributed without charge. In instances of fire damage, affected regions are cordoned off, permitting natural rejuvenation. This method has proven effective in forests like Ajloun and Jerash. Elsewhere, manual reforestation is undertaken.

State-of-the-art technological tools, paired with vigilant human monitoring from observation towers spread across the kingdom, play a crucial role in forest conservation. Artificial intelligence, in particular, has revolutionized the nation's capacity to combat wildfires, optimizing rescue missions with unparalleled efficiency.

1 percent coverage
Khaled Qudah, the deputy chief for forestry and pastures at the Ministry of Agriculture, detailed that Jordan's forested area spans approximately 1.67 million dunums, with only 880,000 dunums covered by trees. This mere 1 percent coverage is significantly less than international benchmarks, emphasizing an urgent call for preservation and expansion in congruence with the Ministry's forestry vision.

The Ministry is committed to cultivating arable lands. To put this into perspective, of the total forested areas in Jordan, half are naturally occurring, while the remaining have been cultivated by the Ministry.

Mitigating threats
The Ministry has also unveiled a comprehensive plan to mitigate fires and other threats.
Two noteworthy initiatives include the winter protection scheme to curtail logging-related aggression and a summer contingency strategy to manage peak fire seasons. This proactive approach involves collaboration with several partners, notably the Civil Defense Directorate.

To facilitate rapid response to emergencies, agricultural units equipped with forestry sections, coupled with both stationary and mobile inspection units, are strategically positioned across all regions.

Underscoring the vital role of local communities, Qudah highlighted their intrinsic connection to the forests. The benefits they reap, ranging from livestock grazing to firewood collection, make them indispensable allies in forest protection. He also mentioned that while many fires arise from unintentional negligence, the exacerbating effects of climate change, particularly heatwaves, significantly amplify the risk and challenge of fire containment.

Jordan's sustainable agricultural vision
Recent data reveals a heartening decrease in forest fires - down to 190 in 2022 from 500 the previous year. The richness of Jordan's forests, with species like Aleppo pine, eucalyptus, and oak, is a testament to their ecological significance. The Ministry's ongoing endeavors include the cultivation of over 60 forest and pastoral tree species, producing 3 million saplings annually for distribution.

Jordan's sustainable agricultural vision is manifesting in projects like the 150 km afforestation drive along the desert road and the afforestation of the Qatraneh region utilizing treated water. There's also an emphasis on innovative technologies, such as the "cocoon" technology from the Netherlands that optimizes water use and introduces a novel fertilization method.

A collaboration with the Arab Potash Company and the Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature will localize and refine this technology for the Middle Eastern context. With a collective funding of JD640,000, the intent is to manufacture and commercialize this technology locally and regionally.

This initiative aligns seamlessly with the Prime Ministry's recently endorsed goal of planting ten million saplings over the upcoming decade. As the chief steward of Jordan's forests, the Ministry of Agriculture is leading this drive, collaborating with various stakeholders to actualize this vision.

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