You might think that the lack of a decent composting system was the least of the Palestinian people's troubles. But you'd be wrong. For those involved in Bustan Quraaqa ("the Tortoise Garden"), a permaculture farm set up last year in the West Bank town of Beit Sahour, near Bethlehem, composting has become about dignity, self-reliance and rescuing the environment.
The Palestinian environment is taking a battering. Sewage flows into streams and the underground aquifer that is the sole source of drinking water for the Palestinian population; solid waste is burned, creating air pollution and contaminating the soil, making it useless for crops. The farming economy, so successful in Israel, is being crushed through prevention of access to farms by the separation wall, checkpoints and the off-limit roads that lead to Israeli settlements. With all these obstacles farmers are leaving their land, leading to neglect of terraces and so to soil erosion, which leaves hillsides stripped of their soil and good for nothing.