To resurrect Jordan’s lost forests, people are planting tiny urban ones

The team’s test plots are also home to some of Jordan’s rarest flora. In Marka, this includes saplings of Lentisk Pistaciathe wild pistachio tree—there are only about fifty left in the wild in Jordan—and celtis australissometimes called European hackberry, which is even rarer.

However, not everyone is convinced that these small-scale forests will help alleviate Jordan’s environmental problems. Climate change is already making the country hotter and drier, and increasingly in need of forest restoration. Currently, only about 1% of Jordan is still forested, and even these areas are threatened by forest fires, cattle grazing and illegal logging. Nizar Obeidat, who specializes in forest and rangeland research at Jordan’s National Agricultural Research Center, says the Miyawaki method is not suitable for reforestation in the country in a practical way. The method is “very expensive because you use a small area with high density and some soil manipulation using straw and manure,” says Obeidat.

Perhaps the greatest benefit of the tiny urban forests that Assaf and Motoharu’s team are planting is to educate ordinary citizens and those in power about the value of green spaces in urban areas. “You have to raise a good generation to have these meaningful projects,” explains Dana Mismar, a volunteer with the team. “And the government should invest in that. This is the most important thing. What’s more important than losing a factory that won’t be there anymore?

Assaf echoes the sentiment. “Today we are so disconnected from the native ecology. It’s like this alien problem,” she says, citing the local knowledge of plants that has been lost. “For me, it’s about reweaving the indigenous ecology in the urban fabric, people’s lives and their memory.”

She thinks of the potential for the city’s children to recognize and value plants, like the Valonia oak, Jordan’s national tree, even though they have never left Amman. “It will become part of their memory, and that really excites me, because we can’t protect what we don’t care about and love, and we can’t care about and love something we don’t know. “, says Assaf.

Part of Assaf and Motoharu’s efforts include building partnerships with local nurseries. Fadwa Al-Madmouj, a 25-year-old volunteer and agricultural engineer at a nursery in south Amman, was instrumental in finding different ways to propagate Jordan’s native plants. In 2019, during the nursery’s first year of collaboration with Assaf and Motoharu, she cultivated around 15 different local species. Today, that number is around 50 and, just as importantly, customer interest is also growing.

“My first year at the nursery, people made fun of the native plants,” says Al-Madmouj. “Now we have a big group that loves native people. They bring friends, they bring family to buy native plants.

The Marka project, says Al-Madmouj, “is a small forest, but it gives a message to people: ‘See, we can do it, and so can you. And together we can do anything.

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