Although born and having lived for most of his youth on the equator in a humid tropical forest environment in former Netherlands New Guinea, Peter has worked most of his professional time in dryland environments, ranging from forest inventory in the dry forests in south-east Senegal in 1994-1976, through community forestry activities in the Sahel (notably in Burkina Faso and Senegal) from 1982 to 1992, to a number of sustainable land use assignments in the 90ies in the sub-humid/semi-arid States of India (Andhra Pradesh, Gujurat and Rajasthan). Since 1996 his focus has shifted to the Middle East with work in agricultural participatory development in Egypt, while having taken up permanent residence in Palestine since 2002. From 2003 to 2010 Peter was a Regional Water Resource and Dryland coordinator with CARE International in the EMPOWERS project in Egypt, Jordan and Palestine and then from 2007 with the IUCN ROWA Office in Amman, where he also served as ROWAs Regional Programme Coordinator supervising programmes in Protected Areas, Coastal Marine Ecosystems, and Water Resources/Drylands/Climate Change in the Middle East.
During his professional life, management of dryland ecosystems has been a core emphasis in his work and, when working on community forestry projects in the Sahel, he was involved in changing the tide from top-down forest management to more social and organizational development approaches and to more integrated village land management, protection and regeneration of natural forest patches and participation of riverine communities in the management of natural forest reserves (Forets Classées).
In the ten years of working in the Sahel his interests and attention shifted to the more social, actor-oriented, local accountability and governance aspects of dryland management, while contributing to all the studies on carrying capacity of Sahelian ecosystems with big debates on the yes and no of resilience, desertification and biodiversity of drylands and vegetation, including the increasing competition for land between settled small-scale farmers and transhumant pastoralists. Exposed, through design and evaluation assignments for numerous projects in West Africa and South and South-East Asia, to the damaging effects of land degradation and exhaustive ground water management and the resulting further impoverishment of rural people in India and the Sahel he has experienced how complex and challenging sustainable dry land management is and how directly this is influenced, often negatively, by political systems and increased exploitation of the poor.
Since landing in Palestine and the Middle East in 2002, his main focus of work has been on dryland agriculture, range management and water resource management, mainly in Jordan, Palestine and Egypt but also in Yemen and Lebanon. Since 2010 he has been working mainly in Palestine, as an independent consultant and for two years as Oxfam Italia’s Country Director, leading two comprehensive programmes on small ruminant (goats and sheep) livestock-based livelihood development in the semi-arid rangelands of the Eastern Slopes of the West Bank; and on Urban Agriculture in the Gaza Strip. Since April 2014 he has picked up again consultancy work and his new tasks as TGL of the CEM Dryland Group, again with IUCN, while closely working with the IUCN Global Dryland Initiative on exploring investment options and needed financial flows for sustainable range management.
Peter has two Msc degrees from Wageningen Agricultural University in The Netherlands in respectively tropical soil science and forestry (1974) and rural economic development (1982). He lives with his Palestinian family in the occupied West Bank of Palestine.
Birguy Lamizana and Piet Wit