Since he was a kid Robert Senftleben has been curious on the challenges of the world, investing all his time trying to understand them. At his final year at Kaospilot he has found his way of contributing to the solution of these challenges – he greens the desert!

Read below how he goes about doing that, and why a Jordanian princess plays a key role in this project.

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Robert, what is it that you are doing in the Jordanian desert?

 

We are a group of people who are working on greening the desert. We have a piece of land in Jordan where we use very simple methods to fertilize the earth. We do it by using permaculture principles. We put organic matter like manure from animals, food waste, leaves and bushes on the degraded deserts soil, and that brings back the fertility in the soil. And when the soil has fertility you can put a seed in, and whatever plant will grow again.

 

We believe that if we green the desert, people there will get resources as water, food, and building materials, and won’t have to emigrate.

 

We also build a research-, training-, and innovation center. That will facilitate the work, train and educate people, host international students, experts, and create collaborations across sectors and nationalities.

 

What are the future perspectives?

 

The whole task is to engage as many locals as possible, and hand it over to the locals as fast as possible. In the spring we bring 60 permaculture people and we invite local elders, religious leaders, business leaders, and community leaders from the three villages that surround the 15 hectares of land we have so far.

 

How did you get the land?

 

The Jordanian princess Basma bint Ali is making available 15 hectares to the research-, training- and innovation center for ecological restoration.

I have had some meetings with her at her house, and she has shown me the land. She has been working in the field of environment for many years.

 

What does a normal day look like for you in the desert?

 

I wake up at six like all the others at the farm. I have breakfast, do some garden work to wake up my body and mind. Then I sit at the computer, and communicate with different people to arrange meetings, I map out people’s skills, and make sure that everyone knows what the project is about. I also facilitate and design meetings. All in all I’m the coordinator.

 

I switch between office work and garden work. And I go to the village to talk to the shopkeepers, and get acquainted with the Arabic language and culture.

 

How did you get started with this project ?

 

I was at a conference about soil and environment in Sweden in 2013, called “Summer of soils.”

The ecologist John D. Liu presented his work, and showed how it is possible to restore large scale damaged ecological systems. In China it has been done with success.

And my long search finally paid off, I found how I want to work on the challenges that I have looked into for so many years.

 

What does the future look like for you?

 

First I need to do my final exam at Kaospilot. It will be about this project. And then I would like to get engaged and stay in Jordan for two years. I both want to work in the field, lead the project on, and learn a lot more about the practical things within permaculture – growing, harvesting, composting and so on. Also I would like to create more community engagement – and in that process I will get to practice my Kaospilot skills more.

 

How do you use your Kaospilot skills?

 

One of the things I use the most is to be open to other people, and to be able to ask other people for help. A lot of people are actually willing to help, and I have found out that there are so many other passionate people, so I really got a huge network.

 

With an open mind I try to systematically understand the things that goes on. I try to find out how and where to trigger a system to arrive at a desired goal. I base it on scientific and morally and ethical philosophical thought, not a monetary gain.

 

I use a lot of design thinking when it comes to how you design meetings, how you ask questions, and how you involve people by creating space and ownership of a project.

 

Why did you want to be a kaospilot in the first place?

 

I wanted to learn how to collaborate with people. And I was curios to meet some likeminded people who had a lot of passion and who really meant that they wanted to make the world a better place.

 

When we applied for the school we had to submit our dream project. I submitted a project about community work in economically deprived countries, using sustainability techniques. So I am now where I was aiming to get.

 

 

 

You can follow Robert’s project at greendeserts.wordpress.com 

 

 

Text by Lotte Rystedt, journalist at Kaospilot