Following the visit to Kosovo in late August by FoEME’s “Good Water Neighbors” project coordinators, a delegation from diverse communities in Kosovo traveled to the Middle East to see, compare and discuss south-south learning with FoEME’s experiences in the GWN project. The delegation visited several GWN communities – in Jordan, Palestine and Israel – and met with youth, residents, mayors and other stakeholders involved in the project, to see on-site project activities and hear first-hand what residents thought worked best about the project.
Three roundtable events were held. One event was held in the SHE Park in Jordan, bringing together local government officials, stakeholders, and community coordinators to discuss local water issues. A second roundtable was held in Batir, with emphasis onbarriers in place both physical and societal and a third roundtable at the close of the visit, in Tel Aviv, with representatives of the three FoEME offices. Very fruitful discussions were held, exploring the take-away lessons for
the Kosovo delegates and FoEME staff, as well as concrete suggestions for collaboration and the development of joint projects. The exchange was celebrated as an excellent learning opportunity, of benefit for both parties in improving their practices and furthering the goal of advancing mutual interests through water and sustainability issues.
The Kosovo visit was supported by the Bosch Foundation
SHE Park’s diverse visitors
Once again, FoEME’s Sharhabil bin Hassneh EcoPark (SHE) hosted various groups of visitors this month, including Jordan’s Minister of Water and Irrigation, who, along with JVA Secretary General Abu Hamour and several journalists, learned about the EcoPark and its environmental education activities. We were honored that they included the EcoPark as one of the stops in their Jordan Valley tour day looking at water resources in the Valley.
In addition to the delegation from Kosovo that visited the SHE Park (mentioned above), another interesting group of visitors included a regional delegation of bicycle trail developers who looked at opportunities for marking bike trails at the EcoPark and the surrounding areas as a means to attract the rapidly growing interest of off-road cyclists to the area. More to come on this effort in future newsletters!
Tour Guides Training tour
On Sunday Nov. 25th, FoEME took another step forward in promoting eco-tourism and peace-focused tourism to its “Good Water Neighbors” communities. Some 20 Israeli tour guides attended a day-long training in which they visited key locations on FoEME’s Neighbors Paths tours and learned about the relevant cross-border water issues: along the Dead Sea, at Alumot dam where the natural flow of the Jordan River ceases, seeing the vision for the Jordan River Peace Park and at FoEME’s EcoCenter in Auja.
The tour guides enthusiastically welcomed the opportunity to learn about places “off the beaten track”, where they heard about the less known details of cross border water issues, their relevance to the peace process, and about FoEME’s vision for the future. Eco and peace tourism can bring needed income for livelihoods in small communities while demonstrating the potential benefits brought to the local economy by protected and rehabilitated natural resources and cross border cooperation.
“GIS” Day 2012 – held in Auja Environmental Center, Palestine
We are in! Saudi Arabia, UAE and Palestine were the three countries in the Middle East accepted to participate in the Global GIS Day 2012. The first GIS Day took place in 1999 in the United States as an initiative for people to learn more about geography and uses of GIS. For the first time in the history of this global movement, Palestinians had the opportunity to join this amazing experience!
FoEME took the initiative to organize this event in our Auja EcoCenter in order to enable people from all corners of Palestine to participate. The event was dominated by discussions on water management issues with more than 35 enthusiastic visitors from local communities and schools that came to learn practical uses of GIS. Municipal staff and mayors came from the Municipalities of Auja, Jericho, Fasayel, Yatta, Battir, Tulkarem and Al Jalama. This activity was held in the framework of the “Protecting Ground Water” and “Good Water Neighbors” projects.
The “Protecting Ground Water” project is supported by the European Union’s ENPI CBC Mediterranean Sea Basin Programme.
The “Good Water Neighbors” project is funded by USAID’s Conflict Management and Mitigation program, the Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA), the European Union’s Partnership for Peace program and the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ).
Auja EcoCenter – so many groups, a new logo – and a new website!
In addition to the events mentioned above that took place in the Auja Center, 3 different groups from Al Quds University came to visit during the month of November – more than 200 students in total! They toured the Center’s outdoor “educational groves”, learned about the environmental education activities offered, and then returned to their desks to write a report about the tour and to suggest different avenues of partnership and cooperation.
Also, a group from Tawasoul & Neve Shalom visited the Auja Center this month, including a guided hike to the Auja Spring. They were most impressed to learn how the Center’s work benefits the village residents – one of the most important goals of the Center.
Lastly, a group of 15 Palestinian Tour Agencies visited the Center to learn about our work and our activities. Beginning with a rooftop breakfast, followed with a presentation about our activities, tours, and hikes, they then visited one of the village’s farmers to learn about the history of the land and the current situation. A hike to the Auja Spring was a “must”, after which a discussion was held to brainstorm on how best to promote the Center and put it squarely on Palestinian Tour Guides’ agendas.
The Auja Environmental Education Center is supported by the Drosos Foundation.