Gazans produce fish, vegetables in tiny rooftop spaces
Abu Ahmed looks out over a sea of grey, empty Gaza rooftops, and smiles as he looks back at the lush greenery sprouting in tubs and pipes on top of his apartment building.
By Sara Hussein
26 Oct 2012
He is part of a United Nations agency project to introduce cutting-edge urban agriculture to Gaza City, teaching Palestinians to farm without soil in the space available to them in one of the world’s most densely populated places.
Most of his rooftop is given over to an aquaponic system, which produces food by linking fish tanks of tilapia with gravel-filled planters.
The integrated system feeds the water from the fish tanks into the plant beds, where Abu Ahmed’s crops — lettuce, peppers, broccoli, celery and herbs — are fertilised by waste produced by the tilapia.
As the water trickles through the gravel, the plants absorb nutrients from the fish waste, cleaning the water, which then replenishes the tanks.
“The idea really was to help the poorest people in Gaza be able to grow some of their own food, and healthy food, grown without pesticides,” explains Mohammed El Shatali, the project’s deputy manager.
For Abu Ahmed, the project has been a major success.
Not only is he using the integrated aquaponic system, he had also set up his own subsidiary hydroponic system, growing additional crops in plastic pipes that are fed by the same water that runs through the aquaponic system.
“I had a bit of experience with agriculture and farming before, but nothing like this,” he says, examining the leaves of a celery plant.
Thanks to the project, the 51-year-old has been able to feed his 13-member family fresh vegetables and fish throughout the summer.
“The fish taste great, although I’m trying not to eat too many of them because I’m breeding new ones so I won’t have to buy more.”