How These Former Foes Are Teaming Up to Solve a Middle East Water Crisis

Photo Illustration by Luis G. Rendon/The Daily Beast/Getty

Yehiya Moubarek would spend each day pacing behind his flock of sheep in the Jordan Valley, beating other shepherds to the water and green grass areas that were growing scarcer by the day due to climate change. About 20 years ago, a new competitor showed up: A group of environmental engineers had blocked off a portion of the land, using esoteric terms like “sustainable farming” to justify their actions. Struggling to get the land back, the shepherds began sabotaging the environmentalists’ project, trespassing on the sequestered land with their flocks, uprooting newly planted trees, and siphoning off water.

Then the environmentalists reached out to Moubarek with an olive branch: he could take a job with them, working with the scientists to regrow the ecosystem and save water.

“Lots of people were opposed to the project in the beginning, especially my own family. And I understand how they were thinking,” Moubarek told The Daily Beast, remembering the early days of the Jordan Valley’s EcoPark in 2004. “But when I spoke with the environmentalists, I felt that they were honest—these were people I could trust.”

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