The Al Baydha Project, in rural, western Saudi Arabia, is a land restoration, poverty-alleviation, and heritage preservation program, based on principles of permacultural and hydrological design. Located roughly 50 kilometers (20 miles) south of Mecca, in Makkah Province, Al Baydha is an area characterized by the rocky, arid, foothills of the Hijaz Mountains. Bedouin tribes are the major residents of this region.
Founded in 2009, and led by permaculturist Neal Spackman and Co-Founder Mona Hamdy, Al Baydha has begun to see practical and ecological results (shown here).
Most notably, Al Baydha's emphasis is on creating an economy for the inhabitants of Al Baydha that is socially, culturally, environmentally, and economically sustainable. The project's main objective is to create financial and social independence for the inhabitants by training, educating and employing them in the infrastructure and capacity building activities undertaken by the Al Baydha Project.
Al Baydha's environmental goal is the reversal of desertification. This is accomplished largely via rainwater harvesting, through utilization of rock terraces and gabions (or small check dams), as well as catchment of runoff into swale lines. These support afforestation of drought-resistant trees, such as date palms, in the natural landscape. Another focus of the program is on slowing down flash floods in the highlands, and, over time, converting them into seasonal streams or wadis, as shown here. In the long-term future, Al Baydha hopes to transform the region into a savanna ecosystem, in part, by means of assisted natural regeneration, conservation grazing, and the effects of evapotranspiration and atmospheric moisture recycling.
In 2016, the Al Baydha Project received a commendation from HRH Prince Khaled Al Faisal for innovative work undertaken by the inhabitants of Al Baydha as a model of national excellence in humanitarianism, sustainability, and innovation.
A similar project, overseen by permaculturist Geoff Lawton (who advised on the design of Al Baydha), has already achieved success in Wadi Rum, in southern Jordan.
For a video demonstration of these hydrological design techniques, with actual footage from the Al Baydha project, click here.
For a general introduction to the project, presented by Neal Spackman, click here.