The Kibbutz Landscape – An Ecological Success in Greening the Desert

Presented at the Tenth International Communal Studies Conference
International Communal Studies Association.
The Varied Paths of Communal Life
Emek Yizrael College, Israel
June 28 – June 30, 2010
ICSA = International Communal Studies Association

Pauker Ran
Green Point kibbutz Nir-Oz

Kibbutz Nir Oz, located on the desert periphery in the Western Negev, was established in the ‘50’s. Then there were a few houses, surrounded by 1000 hectares (~ 2470 acres) of dry farming land, and only four trees in an area characterized by dust storms limiting visibility to 20 meters (60 feet), high temperatures, and high solar insolation. Potable water was brought in from the north, although today water is produced by seawater desalination.

These conditions led kibbutz members to understand the importance of creating a water wise “desert oasis” landscape in order to create reasonable living conditions for man and beast.

Nir Oz began its long term project (51 years to date) implementing a vision of professional management, plant acclimatization (900 species), and water wise agro-technical practices. This vision produced a landscape where all residential gardens are unified into a single, professionally managed garden that uses only 50% of the recommended irrigation levels of Northern Israel (characterized by higher levels of precipitation), at 60% of the maintenance costs compared to other communities in the vicinity.

In addition to the regular landscape gardens, Nir Oz also set aside an additional 12 hectares (~30 acres), with an annual budget of NIS 130,000 , to fund an experimental plant acclimatization center.

The implementation of Nir Oz’s gardens in the framework of a collective community was a prerequisite for the success of this ecological model. This framework enabled the initial investment, and the use of commonly owned agricultural equipment also significantly lowered costs. The availability of many pro bono kibbutz agricultural experts also contributed to getting the project off the ground. In this respect the ecological garden at Nir Oz highlights the benefits of collective living.

Kibbutz gardeners pioneered the field of landscape gardening in Israel, with innovation, efficient maintenance practices, and i water wise design. In each of these areas, the water wise garden oasis at Nir Oz stands out by local and international standards.

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