Bedouin Eco-Tourism Grows in Negev | Project Wadi Attir

Bedouin Eco-Tourism Grows in Negev | Project Wadi Attir

November 27, 2018

Since 2009, Project Wadi Attir has worked to become a model for sustainable development in an arid region, fusing traditional Bedouin pastoral and agricultural practices with cutting-edge technology. In recent months, the Project reports significant expansion of its educational programming; an increase in ecotourism and additions to its tourism infrastructure; festival celebrations for Ramadan and Sukkot; and developments in its unique and delicious dairy products. Below are some highlights:



Educational programming significantly expands: Project Wadi Attir’s agricultural school now opens its doors to approximately 1,000 students per week, through its recent partnership with the Ministry of Education. Students learn about sustainability, agriculture, biology, and environmental science, taught through the framework of The Sustainability Laboratory’s 5 core sustainability principles. Students also learn key leadership skills, which they use to incorporate the values that they learn at the project into their home communities.



Developments in ecotourism: Project Wadi Attir has seen a significant increase in visitors recently, both students and tourists. In 2018 thus far, the project has hosted an average of 1,140 tourists per month. Various points of tourism infrastructure were recently completed, including two new water points, and four shaded way-stations. Now, visitors at Project Wadi Attir can view the sweeping, desert landscapes and hear stories of the project’s development while enjoying some respite from the sun.

Herds out to pasture: The herds at Project Wadi Attir are happier and healthier than ever. As of this summer, the animals go out daily for open grazing. They spend approximately one hour per the day in the pasture, which benefits their health and well-being. The improved health of the herd has resulted in even higher-quality dairy products, including cheeses, yogurt, and milk.




Holiday festivals: In the spring, PWA hosted a Ramadan celebration in conjunction with Women Wage Peace, a grassroots organization that aims to promote peace in Israel. Attendees learned about the many initiatives at the project, and shared a meal together at the end of the day’s fast. The event was attended by people of different faiths. PWA also hosted a two-day-long festival during Sukkot in late September. Attendees were given guided tours of the site, learned about the project’s many innovative initiatives and technologies, and had opportunities to experience Bedouin traditions and culture. Attendees were also able to take workshops, receive henna tattoos, and try the many dairy products produced onsite. Meanwhile, children had the opportunity to spend time with the young animals in the project’s herding initiative. 

New cheese at PWA: Afiq cheese is a traditional Bedouin cheese that does not contain preservatives, and instead uses large quantities of salt. It takes approximately one month to produce and age the cheese, and it has a shelf life of up to two years. Afiq cheese is very popular within the Bedouin community, yet many families do not produce it on their own and it is not available in many stores. PWA began producing afiq cheese and sells it on site and at farmers' markets, and distributes it to local grocery stores and supermarkets.

Ecosystem restoration: The ecosystem restoration initiative has brought about the successful restoration of a formerly degraded area of land to full agricultural productivity, demonstrating a simple, cost-effective approach to combatting desertification and strengthening food security in the area. New trees have sequestered tens of tons of CO2-equivalent and provide habitats to more than 50 bird species, restored soils support an increase in productivity of diverse vegetation and provide more biomass useful as feed for the project's herds, new plantings protect the watershed, and the number of animal species seen on-site, including endangered species, has dramatically increased.

Staff Leadership: Ghadir Hani has been appointed head of the tourism program. Ghadir is a founding member of Project Wadi Attir, and previously served as the executive secretary and managing director of the dairy. success. Also taking on a new leadership role is Khaled Abu Siam as operations manager. Khaled began working at Project Wadi Attir as a main guide, and then temporarily served as the head of the tourism program during the past few months. Lina Alatawna, the new Director General of Project Wadi Attir, has been working hard to bolster cohesion between project staff, help drive Project Wadi Attir to its goal of financial independence, ensure the completion of all of the integrated green technologies onsite, and strengthen the project’s relationship to its underlying principles. Lina’s appointment is particularly important in reflecting the project’s underlying principles, as it is a major goal of the project to empower women in the Bedouin community and in society in general. Currently, approximately 50% of the staff at Project Wadi Attir are women.

See Wadi Attir’s recent newsletter for more about these and additional developments.

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