“The date palm explained by a cultivator”

Nourredine Ben Saadoun
and Nordine Boulahouat
BEDE, 2010

(in French and Arabic)

During a long period of recuperation following a fall of a palm tree in April 2008, Nourredine Bensaadoune will begin to throw on a paper leaf the first words of a testimony of a fellah of oasis and specialized cultivator in date palms. We were immediately enthusiastic with him about the possibility, finally, of restoring most of his knowledge in an original book: “The date palm explained by a cultivator”.

Laboratories and research stations are not able to discover all aspects of cultivated plant life .  Only the farmer, a daily observer season after season, through observation, intuition, experience and trials, can accumulate over time such complex information and intimate understanding of the cultivated plant.

This is of particular relevance for the date palm, where the life of the palm frond canopy (cultural techniques, but also insects and diseases, and other physiological details) is only accessible to the acrobats who regularly penetrate the heart of the canopy.  It is this expert farmer who holds the key to understanding the biology of palms, where an holistic interpretation can lead to decoding its essence.

However, it is difficult to disentangle the complex web of one’s own theoretical and practical knowledge alone.  Nourredine found in Nordine Boulahouat, a member of BEDE, the perfect partner; an interlocutor with a solid knowledge base in agronomy, curious and aware, and having his own practical agricultural experience.

One of the main objectives of BEDE is to establish and reinforce the links between different actors of cultivated biodiversity and the general public.  This book stems from our mission to make farmers’ theoretical and practical knowledge visible.  For them, the development and maintenance of the diversity of their farm systems is of ultimate importance.  Our goal is to confront and complement the knowledge of the farmer-world with those of the scientific sphere, in order to achieve a new kind of understanding.  And with this true understanding, to renew our way of thinking with a more complete and holistic approach, and to render this knowledge in a way it can be shared more easily.

 We see this book as the first in a collection which will follow this dialogue of knowledge. There is much to learn from other master-farmers who have a deep understanding of their crop plant, observing not only its biological nature but also its genetic diversity and adaptability.  Nourredine Ben Saadoun is a prime example of such true interpreters of the reciprocal domestication of plant and human life.

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