In March 2012 Karama Organization took the initiative to create 10 rooftop micro farms in Deheishe Refugee Camp. Since then the female participants has been selected and eventually 15 women have been able to receive the training and materials to start their own micro farm on their roof. This enables them to grow a variety of foods and extend the diet of their families, improving it with more fresh, organic vegetables. But after a very successful start of this project, it is highly needed to provide more families with these tools.
Imagine the refugee camp. Crowded, with 15.000 people living on less than one square kilometers. Most families have no access to land other than their house, and space for trees or plants is very rare. Due to the difficult economic situation, many people live on a tight budget and depend on the support of the UNRWA and their social network for their food. Families that suffer from food insecurity often apply different coping strategies to survive. Recent surveys showed that most often, they leave out the purchase of fresh vegetables first, because this is expensive and easier to cut out than the school fees for example. If this happens often though, this highly influences the development of the children, as well as the health of the adults.
Notice yet, that all the houses in Deheishe have a flat roof. This is both to store the water tanks that collect the water, as well as to easily extend the house whenever necessary. But besides the several functions families have given to their roof – extension of the living room, meeting point, place to dry the laundry, and so on – the roof can also be used as a garden!
Through the fundraising efforts of our friend and previous volunteer Pia, Karama has been able to create 15 rooftop micro farms and train 15 women. The micro farms consist of four broad tubes, in which the seeds are planted. These tubes are held in stands, to spread the weight equally over the roofs. Around these tubes, a cover is shaped to create the best atmosphere possible in both summer and winter. In the summer the cover from hessian is placed, which creates shade for the plants, and in the winter a small green house is created to protect the plants against colder days or rain. A range of vegetable plants are placed in the tubes, among eggplants, tomatoes, green beans and cucumber. Also an extra water tank is provided so more water can be stored during the days that the Israeli occupation delivers the water to the camp. This will help the families to have enough water during the month to water their plants.
After the micro farms are installed on the roofs, the participants are stimulated to take responsibility for the continuation of the project. When working with the first 15 women, this is where we already notice the effect of the specific structure of this project. A central thought behind the project is to take away restraining factors for the women, that limited their own creativity, strength and inventive skills. Now they have been empowered with the training and the materials, it is up to them how to continue with their garden and own ideas can be implemented to take full advantage of their own micro farm. The women have now taken the initiative in their own hands, and have created additional ways to broaden the variety of food produced or maximize the produce of the existing selection. Some have created additional baskets to plant more types, others have used the space below the tubes to create space for the growth of mint and other herbs, and most women have come up with ideas to let the green beans and other existing plant grow upwards. This already shows how this initiative is on its way to reach its most important goal: invest in these women so they are able to use their qualities and potential.
The goal of this fundraising attempt is to extend the reach of this project, and include more women from Deheishe as well as from other refugee camps. We have already sent one rooftop garden to Aida Refugee Camp, which is a camp also nearby Bethlehem. This is a great way to spread knowledge about this idea and has as important effect that people already use their resources and creativity to install their own rooftop gardens. But not all women have this option, and we want to give them the same possibility to support their family! We hope to create another 40 micro farms and distribute them in Deheishe Camp, as well as in Aida Camp and Arroub Camp. Help us to empower these women and create hope in the Palestinian refugee community!