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Building sustainable human and natural communities in Palestine

Every week both expected and unexpected good and bad things happen to uspersonally and at the institute ( We had over 220student visitors for tour of museum and gardens this week. We gaveworkshops (e.g. with Gaza and with York Universit on sustainability). Mymother developed medical issues (still ongoing). etc etc. Yet research,projects, and grants keep us busy and hopeful.  In this weekly message Iwanted to share with you four items focusing on issues of human and naturesustainability that you may find of interest (but again let me know if youdo not want to receive those weekly messages). But also if inclined pleasevisit us and/or join us to build interconnected human community.Political/human rights issues were covered  last week though things happendaily (e.g. I was  touched by an image of 20-year-old Shawkat Awad at thefuneral of an 11-year-old Mohammad Alami killed by Israeli apartheidsoldiers. Shawkat was killed few hours later! World media still silent onongoing atrocities. Anyway here are items for this week:1) Video tour of our botanical garden A new website of great utility about history of Bethlehem anddocumenting its present and past We help withthis (marginally). BTW, the same group listed us as one of eth attractionof Bethlehem Worthwhile read from us: "Challenging colonization: Building sustainablehuman and natural communities in Palestine" This week we finally completed the reporting for the Darwin  Inititive(UK) funded project titled " Biodiversity Conservation and CommunityDevelopment in Al-Makhrour Valley in Bethlehem, Palestine". Here is asummary:   The project area, Al-Makhrour Valley, is the last remainingbiodiversity-rich area in Bethlehem district: 2.6 km2 of natural areasinterspersed with agriculture and rich flora and fauna, and an equivalentbuffer zone of more than 5 km2. It is one of 13 Important Bird Areas inPalestine. It is rich in cultural and natural heritage and was designated aUNESCO World Heritage Site (WHS). Mostly included in area C of the WestBank (Israeli military and civilian control on Palestinian areas), andhaving marginalized villages, the local communities of humans and allliving things have been threatened by both Israeli settlers’ and locals’activities. The challenges to biodiversity include harmful agriculturalpractices, lack of awareness of local people, construction of settlements,urbanization, habitat loss, and land fragmentation. Poverty in the area isimpacted by the occupation, abandonment of agriculture , and poor planningof productive and sustainable practices (such as ecotourism). Focus groupmeetings with the locals and with experts were carried out to pinpoint thechallenges and design appropriate interventions. For example, expertfacilitation of meetings in each community came up with plans for thecommunity (bottom up) and the developed management plan of the valley,basedon scientific studies, was adopted by the government ( .The project addressed the above challenges, as well as others, throughutilizing traditional knowledge updated with more modern permaculturetechniques to enhance eco-agricultural practices.  Four marginalizedcommunities (Al-Walajah, Battir, Husan, and Beit Jala) benefited in thetargeted area via: a) working with 81 farmers in the four communities,which enhanced their (healthier) agricultural production while protectingthe environment, b) developing women cooperatives in the communities andempowering them in areas ranging from production to marketing, and c)enhancing ecotourism in the area, which in-effect enhanced bothbiodiversity and the local economy.  The project gave positive outcome tonatural and human communities in a critical area. This included researchreports and publications, developing databases relating to fauna, flora,habitats and threats, generating management plants (key biodiversityaspected amended to the WHS MP), training (capacity building) for localsand others, developed ecotourism trail band information (including brochurefor ecotourists and signs in the valley path), designed more than 10educational modules, implemented restoration scheme in selected threeDonums of the area, and benefitted more than 400 households (farmers andwomen entrepreneurs). 52 activities under 3 outputs were performedsuccessfully. Only 3 of those activities were partially complete (due toCOVID19 delays and shutdowns) and all under output 2: follow-up onmarketing success/SMEs and ecotourism enhancement follow-up. We will pursuethese and ensure they are delivered. By contrast several activitiesachieved more than promised deliverables (e.g. research publications,educational modules, increased agricultural inputs etc). Further unexpectedactivities were carried out and led to more impact than in the originalproposal in areas like influencing government agencies like agriculture,tourism, and environmental quality authority in areas of biodiversityconservation and human development and has now become a model to studynearby and other areas. For more see almakhrour.palestinenature.orgFollow us on facebook (below links)Stay Human and keep Palestine aliveMazin QumsiyehA bedouin in cyberspace, a villager at homeProfessor, Founder, and (volunteer) DirectorPalestine Museum of Natural HistoryPalestine Institute of Biodiversity and SustainabilityBethlehem UniversityOccupied Palestinehttp://qumsiyeh.orghttp://palestinenature.orgfacebook pagesPersonal newsletter