Jordan / Australia Dryland Farming Project (Phases 1, 2 and 3)


In 1979 Chris Heysen prepared a report on the feasibility of introducing South Australian farming technology to the cereal zone in Jordan.   This study was undertaken following a special request by Crown Prince Hassan and the then Minister for Agriculture M Salah Juma.  The Australian Government provided funding for a feasibility study and then the initial phase of the project.

The Jordan/Australia Dryland Farming Project has been operating in the highland cereal zone of Jordan since December 1980. The primary objective of the project was "to introduce a fodder crop into the fallow phase of the current cereal/fallow rotation.  Secondary objectives included the education of farmers to raise their farm management decision-making skills, and to investigate the potential for pasture improvement in the grassland areas within the cereal zone. The project also involved the promotion of improved cereal production techniques, based on shallow cultivation and mechanical "precision" seeding.

Based in Amman the project commenced in November 1980 with David Harvey, an economist from the SA Department of Agriculture, as Team Leader.  At the time political instability in the region was at a peak, with Iran and Iraq at war, and this threatened the commencement of the project at Ain Kawah.   Delays allowed for improved planning and 12 farmers were selected to implement the ley farming technique.

Following an internal evaluation of the project in 1983, and a formal request by the Jordanian Government, a second, three year phase of the project was approved in October 1984. A Project Review Team visited the project in July 1988 in order to evaluate progress to date and to consider a Jordanian request for a two year extension. The Review Team found that the original aim of the project, that is, the introduction of regenerating medic pastures into the fallow, had not been achieved. Although the project had succeeded in overcoming technical problems in adapting the ley farming system to Jordanian agro-climatic conditions, the system suited to local social and farming systems. As a result, the medic/cereal rotation was seen as adaptable to a narrow range of mostly larger farms in Jordan, and had not yet been widely accepted.

In other areas, however, the project met with more success. Although not envisaged in the original feasibility study, the project was active in the promotion of improved cereal production practices and the introduction of vetch forage crops into the fallow. With the assistance of other projects and agencies, the targets set for adoption of both of these innovations were exceeded during Phase 2.  The Review Team concluded agriculture in Jordan has much to gain from the further development and promotion of the cereal/legume rotation. The Team therefore recommended that the project be extended for a further three years. Emphasis in Phase 3 was to be on an active and well structured extension programme, focussing mainly on vetch production. A modest research programme will also be conducted, primarily to further develop and document the productive capacity of the medic system in Jordan. The project will continue to actively co-operate with other agencies active in the cereal zone of Jordan.

Description of Phase 3 of the Project

The scope of the project in phase 3 was to be limited to the introduction of legumes into the cropping rotation, and not cover improved cereal production practices or rangeland development. The goal of the project in phase 3 was defined as:
"To assist in increasing the productivity of the main rainfed cereal growing areas of Jordan and specifically to integrate livestock and cereal production through the introduction of legumes into the farming system"

The project was to consist of three main components, or programmes of activity:- Research, Extension and Training, and Seed Multiplication. The objectives of each of these components were:

The Research Program: To further develop technical recommendations and document the productive capacity of regenerating medic pastures under Jordanian conditions.

The Extension and Training program: To increase the adoption of the cereal/livestock system by farmers/livestock owners and to establish the capability within the Jordanian Government to maintain the extension programme after the end of the project.

Seed Multiplication: To develop a seed production capacity and supply seed of both vetch and Medicago spp. for farmer sowings.


The project concluded in 1991 with a total AusAid contribution exceeding A$6m.

The results of data from over 50 farms in the cereal belt through the 1980s showed that total farm profits increased by around 40%. While cereal yields declined by 10-20% following the establishment year of the forage crop compared to cereals after fallow, the added income in the next year from livestock resulted in an increase of farm profit by 40% over the two year cycle.

Rod Reeve produced ‘A Manual of Integrated Cereal/Livestock Farming Systems in Jordan’ as a legacy of the project and its findings in cereal/livestock farming systems.


PositionPerson Period of Service
Phase 1  
Team Leader D. Harvey 1980–1984
Agronomist B. Bull 1980–1984
Farm Management Advisor T. Peckover 1980–1984
Phase 2  
Team Leader C. Heyson 1985–1987
Agronomist P. Tow 1985–1987
Forage Livestock Advisor S. McArthur 1985–1987
Farm Management Advisor J.Pearce 1985–1986
  G. Heading 1986–1987
Phase 3  
Team Leader R. Reeve 1988–1990
Forage Livestock Advisor B. Hancock 1988–1991
Farm Management Advisor G. Heading 1988–1991

Zarqa River Basin Project

Sub Project 1 – On-Farm Development

During the 1970s the government of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan recognized the need for soil and water conservation practices to be introduced in the main water catchment areas of the country.  Consequently a Pilot Program and detailed feasibility study was conducted under German Government funding in the Zarqa River Basin northwest of the capital city of Amman (the Zarqa River was called the Jabok River in biblical times).  This resulted in 1986, in the calling for tenders for consultancy services to assist the Jordanian Ministry of Agriculture in the implementation of the Zarqa River Basin Project – a project for the improvement of soil conservation in the Lower Zarqa River Catchment area.  SAGRIC International Pty Ltd of Adelaide South Australia, in association with Jouzy and Partners of Amman, Jordan, were awarded the contract and commenced operations in Jordan in April 1987.

The Lower Zarqa Catchment covered 87,000 ha with an estimated 5,700 farm families – most of these were dryland farms. The On-Farm Development subproject targeted private land and as farm boundaries were not well defined topographic surveyors were required to delineate the farm boundaries.  Once the soil and topography had been mapped land use planners used feasibility study guidelines to determine appropriate land use and associated soil conservation works.  Plans were passed to Ministry of Agriculture extension staff who sought endorsement by the landholder.   The estimated total cost of the project was JD38.5m funded through a number of sources including the Arab Development Bank and Kuwait.

The Zarqa River Basin Project (ZRBP) was a complex rural development project – its implementation expected to lead to the development of a comprehensive system for the maintenance of sustainable and viable agriculture through the watershed area.  This in turn was to provide a model for the development of similar areas both in Jordan and in other nearby countries.  The success of the project was highly dependant on the understanding and support by farmers for the objectives of the project.  Such understanding and support is only achieved through an effective extension program for which Ministry of Agriculture staff were responsible.

During the implementation of its contract the SAGRIC/Jouzy partnership employed up to 5 Australian experts and 28 Jordanians for the surveying and land use planning components of its activities.  This team achieved a very high level of performance after the initial settling in and trial periods were completed.  During the contract a total of 2642 farms were planned in detail, covering an area of more than 144,000 dunums (In Jordan, a dunum is 0.1 hectares).  In addition a further 1682 plots with an area of over 52,000 dunums were planned on a broad scale of 1:5,000.  The planning teams had developed a high skill level by the end of the contract – primarily due to the training and staff development by the Consultant’s and the Australian staff.  Many formal and informal training activities were conducted during the contract for both the Consultant’s own Jordanian staff and for staff employed directly by the Ministry of Agriculture.  Additionally a number of Jordanians were able to benefit from study tours to Australia which were provided by the Consultant without charge under the contract.

Any project this size encounters many problems in its implementation and the Zarqa River Basin Project was no exception.  Most of these problems were overcome as they arose thanks to the willingness of both the Central Project Management and the Consultant’s team to be flexible in varying their approach when required by the circumstances.  The greatest problem faced by the planning team was the much higher degree of land fragmentation than had been forecast by the Feasibility Study.  This led to the development of several new approaches to the planning methods in order to ensure that planning targets were met.   The project team developed a computer software package that greatly reduced the amount of time land use planners required in the office to complete the detailed farm plans.  Prior to completion of the contract Ministry of Agriculture staff were trained in the use of this computer package.

Farmers within the project area showed a willingness to accept the projects recommendations for development of their farms where these plans included the construction of stone walls as a means of soil erosion control.  However where stone walls were not included, either because they were unnecessary or no stone was available, acceptance of land use recommendations was not as well accepted.  Stone walls appeared to be much more of a status symbol than the other soil conservation structures. On departure of the Project Consultant the Ministry Central Management were encouraged not to unnecessarily build stone walls as a means of keeping farmers onside but to look at other means of getting their acceptance of land use change.

As well as land use planning the Consultant prepared tenders and supervised the construction of soil conservation works on farms.   Up to 14 Jordanian engineers, topographic surveyors and chainmen were employed for this role.  Achievements were continually hampered by delays in the tendering process.  With the exception of 1989, the tenders were forwarded to contractors too late in the season to enable them to complete work before the ground became too wet.  Despite this difficulty six tenders were fully completed during the period of the Consultant’s contract and a further three were to be completed shortly after.   The six completed tenders involved 727 farms with an area of 39,791 dunums, and a total value of structures worth over JD 300,000.   The final three tenders more than doubled this amount with 786 farms, an area of 46,920 dunums, and construction costs of JD 624,778.  A pool of experienced sub-contractors was developed who could then offer other projects skills in soil conservation works construction.

In addition to the land use planning, construction supervision and training activities the Consultant was responsible for the procurement and importation of a large amount of equipment and vehicles required for the implementation of the contract.  A total of 24 vehicles, specialized field equipment for surveying and communications, as well as photocopiers, computers, printers and other office equipment were purchased and installed.  All equipment was handed over to the Ministry of Agriculture on completion of the contract.

When the contract was originally negotiated in 1986 it was anticipated that the consultancy would be required for the full 7 years of the project.  The economic circumstances in which Jordan found itself from late 1988 necessitated the early termination of the contract.  Being aware of this the Consultant did everything possible in the final 18 months to ensure that Jordanian staff were trained in the essential aspects of the Consultant’s areas of responsibility.  Since completion of the contract many of the Jordanian staff employed by the Consultancy partnership were engaged by the Ministry of Agriculture and are continuing the planning activities.

Australian Staff involved in the project were:

  • Roger Hartley: Team Leader 1987–1988 (from SA Department of Agriculture)
  • Bill Davies: Land Use Planner 1987–1988, Team Leader 1989–1990 (from SA Department of Agriculture)
  • Steve Moore: Land Use Planner 1987–1989 (from SA Department of Agriculture)
  • Chris Auricht: Land Use Planner 1989–1990 (from SA Department of Agriculture)
  • Ian Brook: Land Use Planner 1987–1990 (from NSW Soil Conservation Service)
  • Jeff Palmer: Land Use Planner 1989–1990 (from NSW Soil Conservation Service)

The Australian staff lived in Amman with their families – usually in comfortable apartments - and travelled daily to their worksites – less than one hour away.  The working week was from Saturday morning to Thursday midday.

September 1989 Consultant’s staff office assignment

Bill Davies Team Leader
Zuhair Bardakji Senior Resident Engineer
Sa’ad Dajani Administrative Officer
Sabah Kawas Typist, Personal Assistant to the Team Leader
Mohamed Adli Draftsman/Topographic Surveyor
Issa Freij Draftsman/Topographic Surveyor
Jamal Alorf Draftsman
Shabib Haddadin Land Use Planner
Amjad Azer Resident Engineer
Khalid Monayer Topographic Surveyor
Ramzi Salfiti Topographic Surveyor Construction
Zakaria Zaza Draftsman
Duraid Jaradat Clerk
Nael Mashaal Chairman
Basem Shamoun Soil Surveyor
Said Abu Saad Topographic Surveyor
Khalil Jaber Chainman
Nizam Suliman Chainman Construction
Ian Brook Land Use Planner
Kamal Raheb Resident Engineer
Sami Sahyoun Soil Surveyor
Adel Al-Wazeer Topographic Surveyor Construction
Tahsen Aboud Topographic Surveyor Construction
Jamil Haddad Chainman
Salem Ayed Chainman
Basma Haddadin Clerk / Typist
Fakhri Halawa Draftsman
Anwar Atayyah Chainman Construction
Yousef Sakran Land Use Planner
Sami Battat Resident Engineer
Mahmoud Jamous Soil Surveyor
Michelle Taweel Topographic Surveyor
Taisier Faraj Draftsman
Ahmad Sakran Chainman
Asaad Faroun Topographic Surveyor Construction
Ahmad Samarah Chainman Construction
Ayed Hamtini Chainman Construction
Mohamed El-Hamad Clerk
Ibrahim Zeidan Land Use Planner
Kamal Raheb Resident Engineer
Osama Hijazi Land Use Planner
Tahsen Aboud Topographic Surveyor Construction
Jamil Haddad Chainman Construction
Ahmad Al-Sakran Chainman
Anwar Atayyah Chainman Construction
Jeff Palmer Land Use Planner
Mohammed Mudabber Soil Surveyor
Khalid Monayer Topographic Surveyor
Ahmad Samarah Chainman Construction
Neal Mashaal Chainman
Ayed Hamtini Chainman Construction
Sami Battat Resident Engineer
Mohamed El- Hamad Clerical Officer
Asa’ad Faroun Topographic Surveyor Construction
Chris Auricht Land Use Planner
Huda Abu Baker Soil Surveyor
Said Abu Saad Topographic Surveyor
Hiyam Salem Clerk
Khalil Jaber Chainman
Jamal Shried$eh Soil Surveyor
Amjad Azar Resident Engineer
Trakhan Khaled Chainman Construction
Page Last Reviewed: 20 Nov 2017
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