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Summer 2015 Update

We are excited to share our first e-newsletter update! Since this is our first formal update since spring 2014, we intend to be thorough. However, our intention moving forward is to send four shorter, seasonal updates throughout the year, rather than one long one.  We hope that makes it easier to stay informed of all the new developments at Project Wadi Attir. And by the way, if you haven’t had a chance to check out our Project Wadi Attir website, launched this March, please do!
Below you’ll find brief portraits of the challenges and accomplishments of each of the project’s major functions. If we had to characterize what all of these portraits have in common, it’s the progress the staff has made in capacity-building over the last year, and the leaps this capacity-building has facilitated in the implementation of each of the project’s major functions. Also of note is the transformation of the site due to continued ecosystem restoration efforts, as well as a 10 million shekel construction push, which saw the installation of the first phase of the Visitor Center, the animal pens, and other key structures.
Moving into next year, we look towards continued capacity-building efforts with our staff, and we are confident that the project’s four main initiatives—the Herding and Dairy Enterprise, the Indigenous Vegetable Initiative, the Medicinal Plants Enterprise, and the Visitor, Training and Education Center—will continue to grow. Of course, none of this would be possible without our steadfast and visionary partners and supporters, and we offer our sincerest thanks. 

Herding and Dairy Enterprise
Early in 2015, the project acquired 200 sheep and 180 goats, which are now living onsite. In late July, 122 lambs were born to 80 of our ewes. These births will continue in three waves until November 2015, and this growing herd will be the source of raw milk for our dairy operation.
Ibrahim Alatrash, founding member of Project Wadi Attir, tending the sheep.
Some of the 122 baby lambs born this summer.
We are moving ahead with our plan to construct a fully-equipped, modern dairy, meeting all of the standards and conditions set forth by the Ministry of Health. At this early stage, we have already received a milk allowance quota from the authorities. This is a major milestone as, due to strict regulation, it is quite difficult for new dairies to enter the Israeli market. Our close working relationship with the Ministry of Agriculture has been very helpful in this regard.
In anticipation of the construction of the milking facility, we have acquired a temporary mobile milking facility in order to begin milking. Today, the amount of milk harvested from our herd is up to 60-70 liters daily. This amount will continue to grow steadily, and will eventually allow us to produce around 100 tons of dairy products annually.
The staff is solidifying a team that will lead the dairy in the coming years. This team is being directed by Osama Talalqeh and includes two women workers from the Bedouin sector. This team will be reinforced by Arieh Gilboa, a food engineer who oversaw the original cheese-making workshops with Bedouin women, and who will be consulting with the staff as they develop their launching line of products.
The team has been traveling central and southern Israel, learning from surrounding organic dairy farmers and cheese-makers about methods of modern cheese production. They have formed partnerships with two dairies in particular, the Markowitz Dairy and the Ha’Kerem Dairy, and are visiting these sites frequently for private workshops. We are particularly excited about the partnership with Aharon Markowitz, master cheese-maker of the Markowitz Dairy, who will work closely with the team in developing the unique Wadi Attir brand, incorporating traditional cheese-making methods to produce authentic Bedouin dairy products in a professional, modern manner. Aharon and his wife have toured the project site and the surrounding Bedouin community, receiving a demonstration by Um Ahmed, Osama’s mother, in traditional Bedouin cheese-making. 
New Director of the Project Wadi Attir Dairy, Osama Talalqeh, being trained on cheese production methods at the Ha'Kerem Dairy.
Aharon and Tami Markowitz from the Markowitz Dairy visit Hura and the project.
The team has already begun experimenting with product development in a dedicated facility onsite. They are first focusing on yogurt and cheese, employing a number of taste-testers to evaluate the quality and taste of the product, and to make improvements. Efforts are being made to determine the products’ target market, develop a branding and marketing strategy, and create the packaging. Project staff is also currently the process of exploring contracts with distributors and retailers.
Indigenous Vegetable Initiative
The Indigenous Vegetable Initiative has been growing under the directorship of new member Safiya Morgan, a Bedouin woman with a long history of leadership and engagement within the Bedouin community. Safiya began training sessions for eight local women in January, with the goal of imparting the necessary skills to grow authentic, desert vegetables on family-managed plots. By mid-March, the women began sowing 11 different kinds of vegetables for the summer harvest, which proved abundant and successful.
Safiya Morgan, Director of the Indigenous Vegetable Initiative, on the vegetable plot.
Our tomato harvest.
In April, two local women were added to the team to assist Safiya in working in the field. The team has been working with Gur Rotem of the Adamama eco-farm, located in the Northern Negev, studying permaculture techniques and principles, and traveling the area to collect cuttings from wild plants and fruit trees, as well as heirloom seeds kept by local Bedouin families. These cuttings and seedlings will be grown in greenhouses and later transferred to the project site, adding to the project’s ever-increasing heirloom seed stock. In July, Safiya reported that a group of Bedouin women showed up on the site of their own accord, interested in learning about kitchen gardens—a measure of the success of the first training groups.
Safiya has been busy creating a work plan which includes an ambitious nutrition program. This month, with support from the rest of the project staff, an application for funding was submitted to the Strauss Foundation, which supports nutrition and health initiatives in marginalized communities within Israel. Whether we receive the grant or not, this application represents a great leap in capacity for our staff, who have proved themselves ready and willing to adopt some fundraising responsibilities for their own initiatives. 
Seeds in the project's seed bank.
Medicinal Plants Enterprise
We are happy to report that we have found an accomplished factory to produce our cosmetic products. Faran, based in Mitzpe Ramon, specializes in formulating and developing private label cosmetic lines, and is committed to manufacturing the highest-quality, all-natural cosmetics. We have already sent samples of their face cream to potential customers, both Arab and Jewish women within Israel, and the response has been very positive. The plan is to use their base formulas for our products, while using our medicinal plants, grown onsite, as the unique active ingredient. In parallel, we are working on branding, continued test marketing, and business plans for these products.

Ali Alhawashla continues to experiment in the plot, working to domesticate beneficial herbs which have never before been grown in this way, and we had our first major harvest of high-quality herbs this summer.
Ali Alhawashla with the summer harvest.
The Medicinal Plants plot.
We are particularly excited about a budding partnership with Al Alim, one of Israel’s largest retailers of medicinal herbs. The company has done a scientific analysis of Project Wadi Attir’s herbs and has determined that they are of superior quality and potency. They have already purchased much of our past harvest of plants like za’atar, sage, and white micromeria, and they have now contracted us to sell them over 500 kilos of za’atar directly! This represents a major step in our revenue-building activities, proving that our product is valued in the medicinal healing community.
Organic certification will play an important role in our marketability, both in sale of our products and the plants themselves. We have already started the process with Agrior, the certifying body, and we are working towards obtaining organic certification within the year.
Visitor, Training and Education Center
We are excited to share pictures of the recently constructed first phase of our Visitor, Training and Education Center. The center currently consists of one large hall, and several classrooms and offices, which are being used primarily as a meeting place for students and other tour groups before and after site tours or activities. Work continues on finishing the shading roof, the internal yard and the surrounding landscaping.
A meeting taking place in the as-yet unfinished courtyard of the new Visitor's Center.
The center has been constantly welcoming new visitors. Besides some high profile visits from Israel’s President Reuven Rivlin and Israel’s Minister of Agriculture Uri Ariel, groups of all kinds have been making their way through Project Wadi Attir. At this point, we have obtained the necessary certification and insurance, and are now legally allowed to host groups of students, who have been visiting and volunteering onsite on a regular basis. Both Bedouin and Jewish students from area schools have received tours of the site, which includes a crash course on the site’s holistic, waste-to-resources approach to sustainability, as well as the significance of the site’s various functions. The students also assist in working the land, helping to plant, harvest, or clean the plots.
Student volunteers are currently visiting the site as part of other, existing programs, either through their schools or through extracurricular activities, or even as a part of other volunteering programs. This has given Project Wadi Attir’s team the opportunity to practice their program and presentation, to refine programming and curriculum for the coming semester, and to strengthen ties with existing area institutions. With the occasional support of AMAL Education Network, the Ministry of Education, and BGU Researchers, directors of each program function have now prepared programming for student volunteers and researchers to be delivered beginning next school year. By the middle of next school year, with support from the Social Venture Fund for Jewish-Arab Equality, we will install a lab for high-school students from surrounding schools to engage in science education and research onsite. 
Student volunteers working onsite.
A participant in the AMAL Network's Student Learning Day at Project Wadi Attir, with Ali Alhawashla.
One notable development is that many of the visiting tour groups have been paying for their site tour, and many student volunteers have been subsidized by their affiliated programs and institutions. This practice, in time, will represent a significant stream of income for the Visitor, Training and Education Center. Looking to second half of this year, we are intensifying work on developing the educational programming, under the new leadership of Amran Amarni, a recent addition the team.
Ecosystem Restoration Initiative
The project’s Ecosystem Restoration Initiative, led by BGU Researcher Dr. Stefan Leu and his team, have been showing tremendous progress in restoring resilience, productivity and biodiversity to the formerly degraded dryland that is the Project Wadi Attir site. Under a special grant from the Moses Feldman Family Foundation, We are currently developing special educational materials related to our progress on the project site, and to the issue of desertification generally. These materials will be available at the Visitor’s Center.
Lab Founder Dr. Ben-Eli and Dr. Leu have presented this important work at the Deserts, Drylands and Desertification conference at The Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in November, the 3rd Oxford Interdisciplinary Desert Conference in April and, most recently, during the Caux Dialogue on Land and Security in Switzerland. 

Netafim Installs Our Irrigation System
Netafim, an Israeli global leader on drip irrigation, and a close supporter of the project since its inception, has won the contract to install the comprehensive irrigation system for the whole site. Work has already commenced and should be completed by the end of September.
A Major Gift from JNF-USA and the Parsons Water Fund
We are pleased to report that we have secured a $750,000 grant from the Jewish National Fund-USA, earmarked for capital construction. This includes a grant from the Parsons Water Fund that will cover the costs of implementing our wastewater treatment system, specifically. The system seeks to demonstrate a model for the management of farm wastes in a manner that maximizes water conservation, nutrient management and environmental protection.
The Inauguration of our Agricultural Facilities
To celebrate the completion of our first agricultural structures, including the pens for our first herd of sheep, as well as a large barn, we held an Inauguration Ceremony at the project site on January 27, 2015 (for more photos, see our blog post!). The event was well-attended by elders from the Bedouin community and Bedouin students from local schools, alongside representatives from government ministries, members of the academic community, professionals from local social organizations, and others. 

Besides Dr. Mohammed Alnabari, Mayor of Hura, Dr. Ben-Eli, and Yunes Nabari, Manager of Project Wadi Attir, speakers included Professor Rivka Carmi, President of Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Mr. Iman Saif, Authority for the Economic Development of the Arab, Druze and Circassian Sectors, Rob Robin representing Russel Robinson at JNF, Ms. Sigal Shaltiel, the Director General of the Ministry of Development of the Negev and Galilee, and Mr. Yair Shamir, Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development. 

At the end of the event, Dr. Alnabari presented Dr. Ben-Eli with honorary citizenship of Hura.
Bedouin elders attending the event.
The Alnur choir performing at the event.
BGU President, Professor Rivka Carmi, speaking at the event.
From left: Mayor Mohammed Alnabari, Yair Shamir, Michael Ben-Eli, Itzik Zivan, and Sheikh Yusef Alasivi 
Project Wadi Attir in the News
We’ve had a number of wonderful write-ups in the press recently—in Ha’aretz, Israel21c, and Moment Magazine (as part of their recent focus on the Negev Bedouin). We hope you enjoy and that you share with others! You can also keep track of these and other instances of Project Wadi Attir in the news by following us on Twitter or Facebook.
Looking Ahead
We have a number of exciting developments on the horizon. In the next few months, we plan to build our dairy plant onsite, and to obtain certification to begin operating our milking facility.
We are intensifying efforts to solidify our business and product development on all of our Wadi Attir products, and to make key decisions regarding the overall Wadi Attir brand.
We will also begin to install the major elements of our integrated green technology system, including a pioneering hybrid wind/solar energy system, a state-of-the-art irrigation system, a bio-gas production system, a wastewater treatment system, and a composting facility.

We look forward to updating you in the late fall! For more information, please contact Arielle Angel, Director of Operations at The Lab:

Thank You!
We want to extend our sincerest thanks to JNF-USA, and in particular to Russell Robinson, its CEO, to Yoav Morag and his team at the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, to the Ministry of Development of the Negev and the Galilee, the Economic Development Authority in the Minority Sector at the Prime Minster’s Office, the Authority for Development and Housing of the Bedouin in the Negev, 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, Joanna Corrigan, Alisa and Daniel Doctoroff, Eugene M. Grant, Jeffery Gural, Ron Guttman, Pamela Kochen Baroukh, 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, Michael Weinstein, Bill Wiener, Roy Zuckerberg. Foundations: Anonymous Foundation (Israel), The Arnow Family Fund, The Jacob and Hilda Blaustein Foundation, The Moses Feldman Family Foundation, Shirley and William Fleischer Foundation, Richard and Rhoda Goldman Fund, The Green Environment Fund, Jewish Funders Network, JFNA Social Venture Fund for Arab Israeli Equality & Shared Society, The Robert Sillins Family Foundation, The Alan B. Slifka Foundation, Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation 
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