The Jordan Badia constitutes 80% of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan (see the green shaded area in the figure below). Due to the lack of rainfall – most areas receive less than 200mm/year – the Badia is comprised of predominantly arid and semiarid climates.
Figure 1: Geographical extent of the Jordan Badia and distribution of urban settlements within.
The definition and the origin of the word “Badia” are controversial; the Badia is different from the desert, as there is much more extensive plant and animal life. Geographically, the area extends from the east, across to where the western mountains border the Jordan Valley, and it is elevated between 700 and 1100 meters above sea level. The region experiences high average daytime temperatures and low nighttime temperatures. Rainfall amounts vary from season to season, as well as within each season itself.
Despite the low levels of rainfall in the Badia, the area constitutes an important source of grazing for livestock breeders. In the past, Bedouins were animal-oriented by occupation and tradition. Pastoralism was more than just a source of income; it was a way of life. Herds of camels and sheep were regarded as a principal form of wealth, and nobility and prestige were equated with the ownership of these animals. As a result, the rainfall seasons have continuously influenced the cyclical movements and migrations inside and outside the Badia for grazing purposes.
In the past, the movements were mainly to sites where vegetation and water were available. However, in the last few decades, improvements in infrastructure, sources of employment, health and education have changed this seasonal pattern of movement. Villages, towns and cities started to appear and expand in the Badia and today more than 300 urban settlements exist throughout.
In terms of natural resources, Badia is rich in oil shale, phosphate mines, building stones, volcanic tuff, marble, silica, and many non-exploited natural minerals and energy sources. However, economic activity is currently limited and as a result, some parts of the Jordan Badia face serious poverty and unemployment issues. Low economic activity is largely attributed to the scattering of urban settlements, immigration to main cities, and the lack of proper, coherent Badia investment plans.
A succession of sporadic droughts and the regular overgrazing of rangelands have contributed to the degradation of the Badia lands, which hinders a key source of income for Bedouin ranchers. Therefore, the Jordanian government has deemed it a priority to develop the Jordan Badia, build the capacity of Badia inhabitants to engage in economic activities, better utilize existing Badia resources, and diversify Badia inhabitants’ sources of income.