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A Sweeter Future: Supporting sustainable strawberry farming in Gaza
By: Rajaa Jadili
In the heart of Gaza, strawberries - grown conventionally in soil - are being cultivated in a unique way - from above the ground, hanging down.
During my visit to several strawberry farms, I was introduced to a new method of strawberry cultivation known as vertical farming, which offers a range of benefits for local farmers. Despite limited space and resources, vertical farming enables farmers to optimize their yields while preserving precious resources such as water and acreage. Using this method, strawberry plants hang from above ground planters. This space saving cultivation style has transformed the farming industry by providing a more efficient way of producing high-quality strawberries whichd employs artificial sand as a soil replacement. Sand has proven to be a trouble-free alternative, resulting in a superior product that is available year round.
While on my visit, I had the pleasure of meeting Walaa Abed Almen’m, an accomplished agricultural engineer, who owns and operates her own farm. As part of her role, Walaa oversees the work of a team of female farmers, all of whom work with Walaa thanks to the UNRWA Job Creation Programme (JCP).
In conversation with Walaa, she shared with me her inspiring journey. She recounted how her career began with UNRWA, following her graduation from Gaza Training College. Through JCP, Walaa was offered a short-term job opportunity at an UNRWA operated strawberry farm. There, she gained valuable knowledge and experience in the cultivation and marketing of strawberries.
Inspired by her growing knowledge and entrepreneurial drive, Walaa made the courageous decision to establish her own farm. Since then, she has continuously enhanced her skills and incorporated cutting-edge cultivation methods, resulting in the stunning farm she owns today.
My visit to these farms were an eye-opening experience. I observed the positive impact of these farming projects on the lives of female farmers. The opportunities provided are often the only source of income for many of these women. These farms improve the financial and social well-being for these women, many of whom are now able to provide necessities like medicine, clothing, and furniture for themselves and their families.
I left the strawberry farms filled with admiration and respect for all of the farmers and workers who have embraced innovation and hard work in the face of challenges. The humanitarian impact of these projects cannot be overstated, and I implore everyone to support and fund these initiatives. These women deserve to be celebrated for their strength and resilience, and it is our duty to help them achieve economic independence and a better quality of life.
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