Subsequent droughts force shepherds to give up on traditional life

Bedouin in Wadi Rum leads his camels in this undated photo. Successive droughts attributed to climate change have forced shepherds in Jordan’s deserts to give up their traditional lifestyle as depleted pastures are not replenished and they must turn to fodder to feed their flock. (Photo: Ameer Khalifeh/Jordan News)
AMMAN — Successive droughts, especially in the last three years, have affected nature in the Jordanian badia, imposing considerable changes and challenges on the lives of local communities.اضافة اعلان

A regional assessment created by UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction has said that 80 per cent of the ecosystem of the Jordanian badia was destroyed by subsequent drought waves.

Safa Jayousi, a climate change expert, said the government, media outlets, and NGOs should work on increasing the awareness of cattle farmers about the effects of climate change, especially flashfloods and droughts that would increase and “stay forever”.

Jayousi noted that desert dwellers could join efforts to mitigate the effects of droughts through their indigenous knowledge of environment and traditional ways of adapting to water scarcity.

Ahmad Obeidat, spokesperson of the Ministry of Environment, said that drought is a natural phenomenon and the desert is the most vulnerable environment to climate change.

The ministry’s Environmental Compensation Fund has implemented many projects to lessen the impacts of droughts on the local communities of the badia such as building dams and digging more artesian wells.

For bedouins, the ecosystem means pastures, as their life depends mainly on cattle breeding.

Sulaiman Abu Amsha, a shepherd from Southern Badia, said that he is facing difficulties maintaining his life as a shepherd, because he had to depend on fodder to feed his flock for the last three years.

Abu Amsha said that food for his 150 sheep and goats costs JD800 per month, in addition to JD400 to 500 as the salary of the shepherd.
Many shepherds used to cultivate barley and wheat to produce their flock’s food, however, they currently depend on buying fodder which increases the produce cost.

Mohammad Delmaz, a farmer, said that he used to rent 500 dunums (50 hectares) every year to cultivate barley and wheat for his 250-strong flock. This year, he had to buy fodder as the crop did not grow because of the lack of rainfall.

Delmaz, a resident of the Northern Badia, said that not only drought, but also population growth and urbanization are other reasons are behind the decline of grazing areas.

“Our flock used to spend most of the year outside, nowadays we keep them at farmers and feed them the fodder we buy, which is something that made our sheep more of a burden rather than a source of income”, Delmaz explained.
Shepherds called for reducing the prices of fodder, which is sold currently at JD170 per tonne.

They also called for increasing the number of artesian wells to use for irrigating crops like barley and wheat.

Zaid Jwayan, a resident of Wadi Rum, said that some people in his area used to live the whole year in desert, while nowadays, they return to their villages for the lack grazing spaces.

Jwayan said that has not seen certain plants such as truffles (underground mushroom) for the last few years, adding that the reason is the lack rainfall and thunder.

Some bedouins have sold their sheep and goats as they were not able to afford the cost of keeping them, according to Jwayan.

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