Why is rooftop gardening needed in Gaza?
In recent years there has been substantial urban expansion in Gaza at the expense of agricultural land. Current urban development policies and land use classifications have failed to protect and provide land for agriculture within Gaza, leading to densification and a loss of open green spaces. The rapid population growth has also caused significant water shortages, with the current annual need of 160 million cubic metres double the capacity of the Gaza aquifer. Heavy pollution of the coastal aquifer has left over 96% of water in Gaza non-potable. Bombings and other threats on Gaza’s singular power plant mean that over 2.1 million people live with only a few hours of electricity a day.
The lack of land fit for agriculture, usable water, and an unreliable supply of energy has resulted in food insecurity for the population, with most donor agencies focusing more on food imports and donations rather than Palestinian-led food sovereignty, prompting dependency on international assistance and a vulnerability to market food price fluctuations. For these reasons, the agricultural sector could play a prominent role in poverty alleviation and securing the population's basic food requirements.
To meet these needs, the Gaza Urban and Peri-Urban Agriculture Platform (GUPAP) supports Gaza refugee families and local farmers to grow food within Gaza, using the limited resources of space, water and energy to their most efficient capacity. When there is no space left to grow on the ground, the gardens are moved up to the rooftops.
GUPAP are working on a pilot project creating rooftop food gardens made from recycled materials and low-cost local resources. Local seeds will be grown, saved and swapped, reconnecting the community with the heritage it has been disconnected from since the 1948 war.
The first rooftop garden, for a refugee family in Burj Refugee Camp, will implement innovative techniques to save water and reduce the costs and environmental impact of production. Growing areas will be constructed from recycled rubber, up-cycled plastic bottles, reused wood, and locally produced compost and crops will be irrigated using drip irrigation and grey water.
In Gaza, the role of women is estimated to amount to 71% of the population economically active in agriculture. In light of that, GUPAP is harnessing this experience to offer a training opportunity for their Women’s Agripreneur Field School. Furthermore, the creation of rooftop gardens helps to meet the need for green and socialising spaces by creating an area available to a section of the population that would otherwise not have access to it: women, elders, and children.
The learnings and the outcomes of the pilot will be documented and to form an urban agriculture guideline to be shared with GUPAP local partners and UWAF notable members of House and Rooftop Gathering. Re-Alliance will also share learnings through the production of a series of guidelines showcasing different regenerative tools and technologies appropriate for situations of disaster and displacement.
To find out more, visit GUPAP’s website here: https://gupap.org/en/
B’Tselem, Water in Gaza: Scarce, polluted and mostly unfit for use, Aug 2020 (here)
EcoMENA, Urban and Peri-urban Agriculture in Gaza: Perspectives, Feb 2021 (here)
Efron S. et al., The Public Health Impacts of Gaza's Water Crisis - Analysis and Policy Options, 2018 (here)
FAO, Country profile – Occupied Palestinian Territory, 2008 (here)
ICRC, The Impact of the Electricity Crisis on The Humanitarian & Living Conditions in the Gaza Strip - Survey Study, Nov 2020 (here)
Oxfam, Failing Gaza: undrinkable water, no access to toilets and little hope on the horizon (here)
OCHA, Electricity in the Gaza Strip (here)
World Bank, Agricultural Land (sq. Km) - West Bank and Gaza (here)
About the author:
Zoe Spanodimitriou is a researcher at Re-Alliance. She is a graduate in International Relations of Asia and Africa, with a deep focus on the MENA area. She has previously worked for the Italian University Network for Development Cooperation and has co-funded two cultural organizations.