Saudi Press

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Wednesday, Mar 22, 2023

Former architect Deema Assaf working to rewild Jordan’s native forests

Former architect Deema Assaf working to rewild Jordan’s native forests

The founder of a rewilding and regeneration program in Jordan has shared her passion for keeping her country’s dwindling forests alive in an interview with Britain’s Guardian newspaper.
Deema Assaf previously worked as an architect for over a decade.

She switched careers to urban forestry after feeling increasingly guilty over her role in the urbanization of the landscape.

“We once had dense forests. There were elephants, rhinos and the Asiatic lion — animals that used to coexist with people here,” Assaf told the Guardian.

“Discovering that made me see the landscape from a different perspective. It is fascinating to see the potential — if human intervention was not affecting it (the ecosystem) negatively, ” she added.

Assaf, who collects information about Jordan’s indigenous forestry plans, became involved in regenerative landscaping and native forest creation, also known as permaculture, the newspaper said.

Her research focuses on the Japanese technique of planting saplings, which results in ultra-dense, multilayered native forests that regenerate 10 times faster than they would naturally.

Through the Miyawaki method, soil is evaluated and improved before planting four types of native seedlings: main tree species, subspecies, shrubs, and ground-covering vegetation. It has the potential to restore lost indigenous forests, which would otherwise take centuries to recover.

However, Assaf has expanded her approach to create plant “communities” and reconnect indigenous species that have coexisted for thousands of years, the Guardian reported.

According to studies, Jordan is one of the driest countries in the world, with 75 percent desert and little rainfall. Deforestation and the climate crisis have reduced the nation’s tree cover to 1 percent, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization reported.

“It is not drought that causes bare ground, it is bare ground that causes drought,” Assaf said.

She claims that “the more we work on greening, the more we give nature the ability to restore itself.”

In 2018, Assaf started work on a small 107 sq. meter site, the Guardian reported. She has gradually compiled a database of plants and trees as part of plans to develop a Jordanian native forest.

Assaf also organizes workshops, encouraging volunteers to help with tree planting and seed harvesting.

“We are constantly testing techniques; always learning, refining and fine-tuning,” she said.

Assaf is planting 1,100 native seedlings in her fifth forest. Asked how she selects her sites, she said: “It is pretty simple: If it was once a forest, it could be a forest again. It is in the land’s DNA.”

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