Palestine refugee engineer pioneers hydroponic farm in northern Gaza

04 November 2019
Photo caption: Irada tends to her hydroponic farm in Beit Hanoun, Gaza. © 2019 UNRWA Photo
Photo caption: Irada tends to her hydroponic farm in Beit Hanoun, Gaza. © 2019 UNRWA Photo
Photo caption: Irada tends to her hydroponic farm in Beit Hanoun, Gaza. © 2019 UNRWA Photo

Irada al-Zaáneen is a 24-year-old agricultural engineer from Beit Hanoun in the northern Gaza Strip. She finished her studies at Al Azhar Universityand, upon graduating, tirelessly searched for a job compatible with her education. However, the crippling economic situation in the Strip greatly limited her job opportunities. She volunteered with many institutions and finally decided to bring her graduate research project to life by opening her very own hydroponics farm.

Hydroponics, the cultivation of plants using mineral nutrients in water, consumes 90 per cent less water than conventional agriculture. It also enables farms to produce high yields while simultaneously reducing farm size. Given the scarcity of resources in Gaza, this reduced environmental footprint is of vital importance. Irada relies on water basins, which sterilized water by moving it through electric pumps.

“Luckily, I was one of 200 people to receive training on green technology and environmentally friendly farming techniques. This really enhanced my knowledge and encourages me to launch my project,” said Irada.

Some 70 square meters from her home, Irada stores water basins full of a wide range of crops that she grows, including tomatoes, eggplant, chili, cucumber and lemon among others. She is excited to continue to push the limits of hydroponic growth and add new crops to her farm.

“This is my dream and while a lot of people have challenged my success - many of them expected me to fail - I’ve remained determined to continue, to explore and develop. I am now full of pride and energy to continue and expand my farm,” she notes.

Hydroponics is not costly and can be a catalyst to self-sufficiency in the agricultural sector. “I’m very happy, especially when farmers, university students and members of local community associations come to visit. They have so many questions about my farm!” she added. Despite of her age, Irada is confident her project will be expanded and she will be a reference to many other youth who seek to challenge the limitations of their geographic location and traditional community roles.