Although Israel and Jordan have not come to a joint stance on the Red-Dead Canal, Haaretz’s tenacious environmental reporter Zafrir Rinat reported Sunday that the two nations have banned the use of chicken manure as fertilizer in an effort to cut down a population of houseflies that thrives on manure and makes life miserable for both countries on the southern end of the Dead Sea. Regional environmental organiation Friends of the Earh Middle East brokered the deal, under which farmers will replace the traditional fertilizer with compost.
In 2006, I spent a summer working in the Amman office of Friends of the Earth Middle East, where I researched a housefly population that bred in Jordan and crossed the border to southern Israel.
The research took me to Ghore Safi, the area of Jordan south of the Dead Sea where the sons of poor families walked barefoot through fields, spilling chicken manure behind them as a cheap fertilizer (photo above by Daniella Cheslow).
On the other side of the border, Israelis in Ein Gedi and other towns of the Tamar regional council were suffering from flies that drove away tourists and made life unbearable in the high fly season. They were searching for a solution, and FoEME then proposed a plant to treat raw chicken manure and make it unattractive to flies.
The most interesting part of the research three years ago was the yawning gaps between lifestyles of the Jordanians and the Israelis. The Jordanians were mostly poverty-ridden villagers who lived in one-room cement houses. Although the flies on their side spread disease and diarrhea, those concerns were secondary to the bigger priority of scraping a living from farming. Any solution to the flies would have to be free or very cheap, while not damaging their ability to feed themselves.
On the other side, the Israelis lived in lush green kibbutzes and small communities that made their money from upscale tourism. The Israelis didn’t get disease from the flies, but they saw them as a much bigger nuisance than the Jordanians did.
It will be interesting to see how this story plays out. To read the Jerusalem Report piece, click on the thumbnails below (it will take a few clicks to get to the full-size images, don’t lose faith).