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The Centre had been established in 1993 to explore ways in which permaculture’s principles of self-sufficiency could help Palestinian farmers whose lands were being confiscated and polluted by settlements like Ariel, which overshadows Marda village.
With the help of funding from Europe, the US and Australia, the Centre had managed to store and grow over 300 native plant varieties and had on its two-hectare site run courses for agricultural engineers from across the Middle East on permaculture techniques such as composting, irrigation, grey water recycling and using organic pesticides. It also offered local women training in computer and English-language skills.
The only danger that the Marda Sustainable Development Centre posed was the “threat of a good example” to Israeli military control over civil society in the West Bank. At the time of the November 2000 attack, a spokesperson for APHEDA, one of the Australian non-governmental organizations which supported the Centre, called the Israeli army’s actions “a senseless attempt to destroy the morale of the community and another example of the unnecessary force being used by the Israeli military.”