Meeting even basic needs can be a challenge for the nearly 2 million people that live in Gaza. An Israeli blockade inhibits international trade and prevents vital supplies from reaching the 141 square mile territory, so the Palestinians living there rely on resilience and innovation to survive with the resources they have. Squeezed out of arable land, many Gaza residents are farming upwards, on the rooftops of the dense urban Mediterranean territory.
Rooftop farming is fairly new in Gaza. Starting in 2010, an urban farming project by the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization equipped over 200 female-headed households with fish tanks, equipment, and supplies to build and maintain an aquaponics growing system, in which fish provide both edible protein and fertilizer for vegetables with roots growing into water, without soil. This initial design was adapted by others to suit their available resources and needs. The current model, designed and built by Palestinians, involves recycled plastic and wood being used to create garden beds, which are then planted with seeds from local farmers.
The growing rooftop farming scene in Gaza is helping to met the needs of a population increasingly threatened by food insecurity. However, a garden is often more than simply the food that it produces. “There are many useful benefits with this project,” said Dr. Ahmad Saleh, an agricultural consultant, former professor, and community organizer who is helping to promote urban farming in Gaza. “Rooftop agriculture enables and empowers people. It allows them to find effective ways to confront environmental problems and helps create a healthier population.” Muhyeddin al-Kahlout, a former school director, sees his gardens as a social gathering spot. “We are experiencing severe power shortages and there is already a scarcity of recreational places,” he said. “Many of my friends liked the idea. Now they are starting to think about doing the same on their rooftops.”