Permaculture Arabia

By Ashraf Al Shafaki

This page is about how to approach the Arab world when trying to promote permaculture to them and how that differs from the approach used for Westerners.

Approaching Westerners

The approach used for promoting permaculture to the Western world is to try and scare them from the future mentioning how bleak life could turn out to be if we keep on practicing the current non-sustainable practices of our 'modern' civilization. To the Arab world, that just does not cut it. The mindset of Arabs makes them not worry at all about the distant future. They believe things will turn up to be fine at the end without any need of special human intervention. So the same approach that works miracles for the West, scaring them of the future, will not really work in the Arab world.

Approaching Arabs

However, an alternative approach for promoting permaculture could work much better within the Arab world. Instead of trying to scare them of the future, which they will sparingly be scared about, permaculture should be sold to them as the "old" authentic and natural method of farming and living. Arabs put their trust in the old, the tried-and-true, the ancient. They believe the past was better. Unlike the Western world which usually aims for the "new", Arabs mostly cherish the old and glorify the ancient. Also stressing the "natural" aspect of permaculture and how it is the way the world is naturally designed can go a long way in convincing them that permaculture is the right path to follow or let's say to "revert" to. Trying to push the concept of "energy" consumption, global worming and environmental change will do little to convince most Arabs about the benefits of permaculture. Just try to stress that permaculture is the old, ancient and natural way of farming and living and they will buy into it trusting that it is a safer and better alternative to currently wide-spread unsustainable agricultural practices.

An additional motivation for Arabs to buy into permaculture is the idea of self sufficiency. This has always been and will continue to be a strong call among Arabs to be able to produce their own food without relying on any external suppliers so as to be independent.


The following table summaries what could generally motivate people in the Arab World vs what could motivate those in the Western World to buy into the idea of permaculture. In the following table, an X indicates the presence of a motivator and the number between brackets indicates its priority.

Arab WorldWestern World
 X (1)
 Environmentally friendly  X (2)
 Healthy X (4) X (3)
 Self sufficient X (3) X (4)
 Natural X (2) X (5)
 Ancient X (1) 

Working with Arabs

Industrialized countries have wen so deep into the 'moder' way of life and now permaculture is one way to reverse the adverse effect of being over-industrialized. For Arab countries however, 'modernization' and industrialization is not yet full fledged but is increasing by the day and eating up more and more of the traditional and more sustainable ways of life their.

People in Arab countries are looking up to industrialized countries seeing such advancement in science and technology as something to aim for. This view is creating a transition from their traditional sustainable life styles into the less sustainable industrialized methods.

In light of the above, one way forward for permaculture in the Arab world is not just by trying to reverse back the over-industrialized parts but by stemming the transition from traditional practices and life styles to industrialized ones. Effort should be made to try and preserve the already present traditional way of life. One way of doing so is by getting locals to appreciate their own traditional life styles rather than having them trying to run after an industrialized type of life.