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April 2018

A Note From Michael and Mohammed

We are happy to bring you this mid-year update of recent developments at Project Wadi Attir. In spite of our many challenges, things continue to develop well with the project. Even for us veterans, it is often an uplifting experience to enter the project site. The transformation is hard to believe. The place is full of life and activity—the sounds of birds and the laughter of children mingle in the air. Hundreds of students and visitors from around the world virtually flood the place. All of this is very gratifying when contrasted with the barren, empty site of the early days.
 
At the same time, and perhaps less visibly obvious, members of the project team have been working diligently on developing, improving and refining our product offerings. As a result, income from economic activities has been steadily rising, moving us ever closer to the goal of economic self- sufficiency.
 
A most exciting development, consistent with the project spirit and our goal of empowering women, has been the appointment earlier this year of a young Bedouin woman, Lina Alatawna, as the Director General of the project. This unprecedented move has been very well accepted by the project team, within the community, and by the project’s many supporters and friends. You will learn more about Lina below.
 
For the rest of the year we plan to continue to strengthen our team and the project’s management capacity; complete the project capital development program, including our integrated infrastructure of green technologies (with our hybrid solar, wind and storage energy system scheduled to become operational next year); and continue to increase income from operations. We look forward to the moment, likely early next year, when we can say with some confidence that we were able to accomplish most of what we set out to do just over ten years ago.
 
Michael and Mohammed
Lina Alatawna Appointed Director General
Lina Alatawna, a young, Bedouin woman, has been appointed Director General of Project Wadi Attir, sending shockwaves through the Bedouin community, and setting a powerful example of female leadership and achievement. The decision was made unanimously by a special selection committee after a public solicitation for applications, as well as profile testing by an independent agency and an interview process. Before her appointment, Lina had already been working at the project for two years as the Director of Operations and Resource Development.

“When I heard about the work Wadi Attir was doing, I knew this was the way to give back to my community,” Lina said in a recent JNS article about female leadership in the Bedouin community. “If I can be highly educated and become a CEO at 28, it shows that Bedouin women can be whatever we want.”

In recent months, we have also established several small managerial teams made up of current staff to address key aspects of management including finance, communications, sales and marketing, and more. Lina enters her new position with the benefit of having these teams in place and will work to strengthen them, bringing the staff into greater cohesion and instituting more effective management protocols and processes.

You can find a short interview with Lina here.

Lina in her office at PWA
Our New Hospitality Tent in Action
As we build our Eco-Tourism program, and continue to welcome students of all ages and from all over the world, our Bedouin hospitality tent has become the gathering place at the heart of the Visitor's Center. Students from 25 local schools visit weekly, and can be seen dancing or having snack-time in the tent between activities, and tourists of all ages take part in interactive lectures and workshops. Since a video is worth a thousand words, we’re so happy to share these videos of a group of Jewish and Arab students from Makom Israel, enjoying traditional Bedouin music and making healing remedies from medicinal herbs in our tent.
Students from Harvard University having lunch in the tent during a recent visit.
Dancing with students from a local Bedouin kindergarten in the tent.
Developing New Products
We're hard at work developing a line of eight new soaps made from our medicinal herbs. All of the face soaps will be made from Roman nettle (
Urtica pilulifera) and the body soaps will be made from Achillea fragrantissima. Based on Bedouin traditional formulas, these soaps can help relieve muscle and joint pain; treat wrinkles, acne and allergies; and moisturize dry skin.

We continue to advance towards our economic targets. From 2016 to 2017, we effectively doubled the percentage of our annual budget which was derived from income from enterprises, from 12%-25%, even as the budget grew significantly in the same period. In 2018, we are aiming for 40%-50% of the entire budget to be funded from income from our enterprises, as we work towards our aim of self-sufficiency by 2020/2021.
Branding samples for the new line of soaps.
Working in the field.
Ghadir Hani, formerly our Executive Secretary, has begun working with Ali in the Field Crops department, managing outreach and sales, and helping with special programs. In addition to farmer's markets, Ghadir has also been introducing the products to new markets through word-of-mouth marketing events in people's homes in nearby neighborhoods like Omer, and has been a fixture at special local events, like at the Society for the Protection of Nature (photos below). 

We recently planted our summer crops: watermelon, melon, okra, zucchini, Arabic cucumber, eggplant, pumpkin, tomato, and hot pepper.
Ghadir presenting products from our medicinal herbs to a group at an event with the Society for the Protection of Nature.
Ali presenting about the different uses of the herbs grown at the project at an event with the Society for the Protection of Nature.
Shared Society Programming at PWA
In these tense times, the project remains a center for meaningful cross-cultural encounters and exchange. In February, the project welcomed hundreds of local Bedouin students along with Jewish students from Tel Aviv and Hadera to participate in joint programming focused around agricultural activities. These meetings represent important, activity-based opportunities for students to meet their Arab and Jewish peers that don't exist elsewhere. More recently, seventeen Arab and Jewish professional women got together for a meet-and-greet at the project. The event was arranged by Shlomit Harth, Country Manager & Area Vice President at Gartner Israel, and Ghadir Hani at the project. The women came from all different fields: business, education, non-profits, the arts, and more. The meeting was a great success and the group is looking forward to the next opportunity to exchange experiences and ideas.
Bedouin and Jewish women professionals at a meet and greet at the project.
Building a fire during shared society programming for elementary school students.
A Place for Learning
The project is quickly becoming central in the educational life of Bedouin children in the region. At the end of March, the project was the host of an annual research fair for Bedouin elementary and middle-school students to solve various agricultural challenges through scientific and technological means. Over the course of this year, pupils from sixth to ninth grade participate in educational programs where they gain a greater understanding of agriculture issues through research.

At the end of the program, the strongest projects, chosen from 50 different schools, are presented to parents, community members, teachers, principals and a judging team that includes various academics. Project Wadi Attir, with its emphasis on ecological, agricultural, and technological research, was a natural partner for the fair, and we were proud to also have a team of students, mentored at the project by Amir Mussery of our Ecosystem Restoration Initiative, in the competition.

Meanwhile, special needs students from Hura have begun visiting the project weekly. The students, all between 15 and 16 years old, are benefiting greatly from sensitive and stimulating instruction on the site.
Students preparing for the research fair
The crowd at the final presentation of the research fair
Beautiful faces with beautiful flowers
A painting activity with students with special needs
Ecosystem Restoration Stats
We've recently released a new flyer highlighting some of the accomplishments of our Ecosystem Restoration Initiative by the numbers. We've excerpted the important statistics below, but you can see the flyer in its entirety, here. Notice the middle photo on the left hand side, below...That's right! We now have turtles on the project site, which is significant for this arid landscape. These turtles arrived here on their own, and are a protected species in the area. They used to be plentiful in the region, but are disappearing fast.
Visit from Sustainability Laboratory Board Member
The project was pleased to welcome longtime Lab board member and friend of the project, Michael Gucovsky, visiting from Costa Rica. As a senior official in the United Nations Development Programme, Mike has had extensive experience with many sustainable development projects throughout the world. 

In reflecting on his visit, Mike said: "I was very impressed by my visit to Project Wadi Attir. The project is a unique example of how to transform a desert into a thriving agro-industrial enterprise. I was particularly struck by the project's approach to the empowerment of women and its modeling of an integrated approach to community development."
Lab Board Member Michael Gucovsky (right) with Visitor's Center guide Khaled Abu Siam.
Craving more photos? Head over to our Instagram, where you'll find pictures of new species spotted onsite, like this Little Owl (athene noctua).
Thank You!
We want to extend our sincerest thanks to the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, the Ministry of Social Equality, the Ministry of Development of the Negev and the Galilee, the Finance Ministry, JNF-USA and its CEO Russell Robinson, and the Arnow Family. We'd also like to thank the many foundations and individuals (listed below) for their continued and committed support of the project.

General Development and Operating Funds have been provided by:
Individuals: Diane Archer and Stephan Percer, Joan & Robert Arnow, Kathi & Peter Arnow, Elyse & Joshua Arnow, Eli Arnow, Ruth Arnow, Chloe Arnow, Talia Arnow, Michael Ben-Eli, Lawrence Benenson, Lillian Ben Zion, Martin Blackman, Susan Clinger-Nash, Joanna Corrigan, Alisa and Daniel Doctoroff, Jeffery Gural, Ron Guttman, Pamela Kochen Baroukh, Rina & Michael Kuch, Tony Leichter, Joseph and Rebecca Meyerhoff, Murray Nathan & Rita Calderon, Susan & Randy Richardson, Joe Rosenblatt, Shelley and Donald Rubin, Steven J. Shaw, Susan Sillins, Michael Sonnenfeldt, Jeff Swartz, Michael Weinstein, Bill Wiener, Roy Zuckerberg. Foundations: Anonymous Foundation (Israel), The Arnow Family Fund, The Diane and Norman Bernstein Foundation, The Jacob and Hilda Blaustein Foundation, The Moses Feldman Family Foundation, The Shirley and William Fleischer Foundation, The Diane and Guilford Glazer Philanthropies, The Richard and Rhoda Goldman Fund, The Eugene and Emily Grant Family Foundation, The Green Environment Fund, The Jewish Funders Network, Legacy Heritage Fund, The Social Venture Fund for Arab-Jewish Equality and Shared Society, The Robert Sillins Family Foundation, The Alan B. Slifka Foundation, The Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation, The Kirsh Foundation, The Strauss Foundation, The Joseph and Harvey Meyerhoff Family Charitable Funds, Wright-Ingraham Institute. 
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