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  Getting started in the 1980s    

Jordan had the perfect start for medic.

There were no excuses for failure but it occurred all the same. 

The Jordan medic project was an aid project funded by the Australian Government and managed by the South Australian Department of Agriculture that had considerable experience in the region.

It had managed the demonstration farm in eastern Libya for 7 years.

Based on that experience it was decided to launch the medic onto Jordanian farms as the Libyans had done in the early 1970s.

The project was much smaller and the team more heavily biased toward technical experts than the one in eastern Libya but all the essential elements were there.

There were Australian technicians.

There was an experienced Australian farmer.

There were inputs of medic seed and machinery.   

Success and failure at the early stage.   

The project managed to establish good medic pastures.

They introduced shallow cultivation for the cereal phase.

Cereal yields improved.

The better seeding methods resulted in a saving in cereal seed. 

The medic pasture ran into grazing problems in spring and summer.

Jordanian land holdings are extremely fragmented and landowners were not able to control access to their land by nomadic flocks. Once they had grazed the medic in winter and spring it became a common pasture.

It was over grazed by nomadic flocks returning from the rangeland to the cereal zone to graze the cereal stubbles.

The pod reserves were reduced to a very low levels and regeneration was poor.

The project team reacted by fencing the medic pastures. While fences have little long term value while shepherds are available it was not a unreasonable transitional strategy.

If the project could show the economic benefits of medic behind fences maybe they could later show them without fences.

That is not how thing turned out.

Farmers, once they were provided with good fences, abandoned the medic and planted fruit or olive trees.

Somalia and the conflict between technical and social solutions

A World Bank report on Somalia demonstrates clearly the extremes of the technical versus socio-economic approach to development.

In one part of the report they commented on the fact that a number of roads had been built but had fallen into disrepair and required extensive rebuilding.

They pointed out that it seemed easier to build roads than to build institutions that would maintain them.

They recommended that these institutions should receive priority over a quick fix of the roads.

In this part of the report the road building technology was accepted and the Somalis had to adapt to it by developing institutions.

Roads technology 1 versus Somalis 0

    Elsewhere in the report there was a discussion of pasture development options where they said that Australian annual legume pastures had performed well in experiments but it had not been possible to graze them on a sustainable basis.

There was no talk of new institution for grazing management or other changes to traditional rights and practices.

The Australian pasture species were dismissed as unsuitable technology.

Pasture technology 0 versus Somalis 1

Not only are the arguments inconsistent but they are both wrong.

I believe that there is a need to meet somewhere in the middle.

I do not know enough about road building engineering to make any suggestions about reduced maintenance but it is certainly true that one of the reasons for the great success of Japanese vehicle manufacturers in less developed countries was their production of vehicles with low maintenance requirements.

There will still be a need for local Somali institutions to maintain the roads but the idea of low maintenance roads should not be dismissed.

Roads technology 1 versus Somalis 1

 The pasture technology needs to be modified.

Imposing fences from Australia is not an appropriate solution but there are other options which do require some changes on the part of the Somali flockowners.

Pastures technology 1 versus Somalis 1

 Returning to WANA the medic system being described on this site is not the Australian system.

Obviously that is where it came from but it has been modified to suit the socio-economic conditions.

These modifications were not enough in the case of Jordan but others could be made (see cereal fences below) and Jordanian society can adapt its traditions to reach a compromise where adaptation takes place in both directions.   

The next stage   

After three years the project was reviewed and a new manager appointed.

The project went into retreat.

Having failed to find a grazing system that could be incorporated within the social structure of Jordanian farming it abandoned the problem and decided to do some applied research into medic cultivars.

The difficulties faced by the project were socio-economic.

There was the social problem of trying to obtain acceptance for the medic as a crop that was protected from grazing rather than a piece of common land open to all.

There was the economic problem of determining whether the benefits of the whole system (that is if the owner could retain all the grazing as well as the cereal crop) would be better than fruit or olive trees. 

The new project team did not even attempt to tackle these problems.

Instead of working with the Jordan Cooperative Organisation and their farmer members they turned towards research and carried out some pointless experiments to determine which Australian cultivars were suited to which areas.

There had been few technical problems with the Australian cultivars as Jordan does not have the extreme winter cold of Iraq or Algeria.

They carried out other experiments on stocking rates and production of medic compared to vetch.

The experimental work was not directed towards solving any one the problems that had been identified during the first phase.

They also established a small seed production unit.   

Success outside the project       

The Australian team and the managers in Adelaide and Canberra showed much the same institutional timidity as the FAO and Algerian managers had a decade earlier.

They did not tackle the socio-economic problems thrown up be the first stage of the medic program but retreated into their familiar shell of applied research.

Even if they were incapable of carrying the medic forward in the direction of the original policy they could have adapted the project to changing circumstances.

The Jordan Cooperative Organisation was most impressed with shallow cultivation and seeding as a stand alone technology.

It produced a better seedbed more cheaply and quicker.

Seeding rates for cereals could be reduced without reducing plant populations.

They left a complete set of deep ploughing equipment that had been donated by the German aid organisation standing in their sheds.

Instead they purchased Australian equipment with an IFAD loan.

The Australian team assisted in drawing up the specification for the purchase but never carried out any further work on shallow cultivation.

If they could not get medic pasture past socio-economic barriers they could get shallow cultivation into Jordanian farming.

The JCO did so but the Australian team never tried to carry the work on to other farms.

There were small farmers using animal traction who would have benefited from shallow cultivation implements and improved seeders.

There were medium and large farmers who had their own equipment and did not use the services of the JCO. These would have benefited from a shallow cultivation program.

Like Algeria it was success but not within the project plan and therefore ignored.   

ACSAD carried out some work on shallow cultivation as part of their WANA wide study but seemed to be unaware of the work done by the Australian team or the JCO.

While ACSAD is largely to blame it is also partly the fault of the Australians (see below) that so few people were aware of their success in this field.   

While grazing rights in the cereal zone proved to be a major problem some of the Jordanian staff were transferred to a rangeland project and began a successful process of exchange of grazing rights between groups of flockowners.

They established some exclusive grazing paths through this grazing rights exchange.

They could then begin pasture improvement on these exclusive grazing paths (in fact they tended to be blocks rather than the longer paths we refer to in Rangeland tenure )

The pasture improvement program involved resting and planting atriplex but because of their contact with Australian medics they sowed these too with some success.

Again it was ignored at an official level by the Australian project. Instead of backing this work with better cultivars more adapted to the rangeland they provided it unofficially with some surplus seed from their cereal zone experiments.

Again it was a problem of recognising success outside the rigid policy framework.   

The cereal fence was another idea developed by the first team.

They realised that a sown cereal crop was protected from grazing by traditional law.

They showed how low seeding rates of cereals with medic could protect it from grazing.

They speculated that the idea could be carried further in the form of a cereal fence sown around medic and in other ways.

These interesting ideas were never pursued in the second phase.


The project was surrounded by an incredible barrier of secrecy.

The team wrote quarterly and annual reports on their work which were sent to Adelaide and Canberra but not released to the Jordanians.

We obtained the reports under the Freedom of Information Act in Australia but that avenue was not available to the Jordanians.

Why the Australian Government adopted this policy is beyond comprehension.

The result was that the development community in Jordan and international were totally convinced that medic had failed in Jordan and that the secrecy was aimed at suppressing the fact.

When we advocated a community medic program for Jordan this perceived failure was quoted back to us and we had to show the reports to prove that the failure was to reorganise the grazing.

Our suggestion of a community program would do that.   

The end of the project   

Not surprisingly the Jordanians and the Australians lost interest in the project as it had so little practical application.

It faded away and was quietly kill off in the late 1980s.