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Rooftop Micro Farms for Refugee Women in Deheishe

by Karama Organisation for Women and Children's Development
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Rooftop Micro Farms for Refugee Women in Deheishe
Rooftop Micro Farms for Refugee Women in Deheishe
Rooftop Micro Farms for Refugee Women in Deheishe
Rooftop Micro Farms for Refugee Women in Deheishe
Rooftop Micro Farms for Refugee Women in Deheishe
Rooftop Micro Farms for Refugee Women in Deheishe
Rooftop Micro Farms for Refugee Women in Deheishe
Rooftop Micro Farms for Refugee Women in Deheishe
Rooftop Micro Farms for Refugee Women in Deheishe
Rooftop Micro Farms for Refugee Women in Deheishe
Rooftop Micro Farms for Refugee Women in Deheishe
Rooftop Micro Farms for Refugee Women in Deheishe
Rooftop Micro Farms for Refugee Women in Deheishe
Rooftop Micro Farms for Refugee Women in Deheishe
Rooftop Micro Farms for Refugee Women in Deheishe
March harvest
March harvest

Dear Supporter! 

This month we celebrated the first anniversary of our Rooftop Garden Project! One year ago Karama Organization was able to bring this long kept idea into practice and we did continue to expend it in the last year. Please find here our news update to inform all our supporters through Global Giving of the most recent developments in Karama!

In March 2012 we started this initiative with the first donation from the USA. From then on fourteen families in Deheishe have been benefiting from already two harvests, and the third one is taking root quickly on their roofs. Take a look at the pictures with this article to see the harvest from this month! The growing plants are being supported by additional robes, connected to the frame. In this way the whole structure is being used to the full and the production is more effective. Notice also the watering system, with the tubes allowing for precise and limited watering, helping the rooftop gardens to use the scarce water in a very effective way. The frames are still covered, protecting the plants against the wind and the already burning sun. Now the winter left and the summer is on its way, both the water system and the covers are crucial parts that make this a sustainable project.

Many Palestinians remembered the continuing struggle to use their land on Land Day last weekend, and this project is for many of its participants a constant expression of this struggle. At several places in Palestine, marches were organized and new trees planted, to remember the lost land or protect the land under threat. But as all inhabitants from Deheishe have lost their land, these green places on their roofs are the first experience of the richness of the earth for many families! Through the rooftop gardens these families can restore their connection with the land, while benefiting at the same time from the gifts this soil is giving. The gardens have become a place for relaxing the mind, for both parents and children and many have expressed their joy to witness the cycle from seed till harvest.. Karama is happy international actors through UNRWA have joined the effort to support these families economically and socially. UNRWA has helped to establish more gardens in the refugee camps and your help has been crucial in this as well!  

Another important event in this project was the visit from our Karama UK team! They have been working really hard to spread information about Karama in the London area and also raise funds for this great project. All the energy from Anna and Silvia resulted in good contacts with local schools and funds and a sponsorship by organic soap store Lush UK! Who even featured our rooftop gardens in their January newspaper: Lush Times!! It was great to receive this team finally (again) in Deheishe and show them and their friends around. This is what they write in their recent newsletter about their visit:

Anna and Silvia are just back from Palestine. Together with some friends we were travelling around Jordan and Palestine and we could not miss the chance to visit Karama. It was great to catch up with Yasser and make a plan for future activities and projects and see the positive impact of the hard work of volunteers on Karama’s premises. It was lovely to share this experience with friends and we hope that this is the first of many other visits to Palestine and Karama.

With this message we want to thank you all for your past donations and support! Do not hesitate to share this report in your network or contact Karama if you are interested to hear more! 

With warm regards from Deheishe, 

the whole Karama Team. 

March 2013 - rooftop gardens
March 2013 - rooftop gardens
harvest rooftop gardens
harvest rooftop gardens
Visit Karama UK
Visit Karama UK

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Beautiful view in the gardens last months
Beautiful view in the gardens last months

 

The past months were full of intense events for all Palestinians, and also in Deheishe all people were heavily affected by this. With all the recent violence, new intentions and promises, the seasons remain steadfast and the earth continues to provide us with harvest. This year, the rooftop gardens placed by Karama Organization on tens of rooftops in Deheishe and Aida Camp experience their first winter. The seeds for the winter crops are planted, and the plastic covers for extra protection are placed over the metal frame. Now the cover will work as a greenhouse, keeping the warmth inside and the cold out, optimizing the harvest in the coming months.

After seven months in the project, all participants noticed how their lives are affected by the project. One of the participants remembers how she started out skeptical of the idea: “In the beginning I didn't think it would work, but once I tried it I saw it was a good idea and would encourage anyone to have a greenhouse.” Especially after seeing the results, Hajar Hamdan, responsible for a household of five, admits: “It saves a lot of money and it's great to practice being a farmer. It makes me happy working inside our greenhouse.” In a recent CNN news report she adds laughing: “My neighbors often come round asking if we have any to spare, which makes me very popular.”

Her story shows, the gardens are still helping the women and their families to find strength in the chaos of daily life in the camp. Also, the facts prove how families can reduce their expenses on the costly vegetables, saving money for other important costs. This project goal of self-reliance is more urgent than ever, especially now the economic situation in the Palestinian Territories keeps on declining in the past months, and the financial problems of the Palestinian Authority worsen. A recent IMF report warns again for the economic decline in all months of 2012, with raising unemployment levels. The refugees in the camp are hit extra hard by these developments. More than half of the employed adults in Deheishe are working for the PA, explains the UNRWA representative in Deheishe, Mustafa Younis, in an interview with newspaper The National. “Its financial ills have led to a worsening of poverty and unemployment in the camp.”

These warning signs were heard by several organization however, and both the UNRWA and fresh handmade cosmetics store Lush recently pledged to give more funds to our project! With their valuable investment, an additional 65 gardens can be set up, raising more families out of this dangerous situation. Karama Organization is very excited to start the new gardens, especially since families from many camps continue to approach our organization for help. Now, with this great gesture from the UNRWA and Lush finally more people can benefit! Karama is also especially thankful for the team from Karama UK who worked very hard in the United Kingdom to secure funding.

 

If enough gardens are established in the coming weeks, and the production remains as high as in the first gardens, we can establish a collective association. Then people can sell the vegetables they have left over at a cheaper price, below the current high market price, to let more people benefit in the camps. In this way, a one time investment in the materials for the gardens, has to potential of making a whole community less dependent on outside financial sources!

We still need as many people as possible to be part of this! Anybody could help make these gardens possible, either through donating on the Global Giving website or by spreading the word. Why not share some of the newspaper articles with your friends on Facebook or Twitter? With the links below you can easily share them on-line. And make sure not forget to mention, that currently all monthly recurring donations will still be MATCHED! So your donation will be worth double if you start giving before the 31th of December! Do not hesitate to get in touch with us if you want more information about any of the things mentioned here.

We hope we can count on your support again and from Karama, we sent you a warm thank you for your continuing interest for our projects! 

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Al-Arabia, Sky News, Reuters, PNN, Al-Quds, Al-Hurra, Electronic Intifada.. All these news agencies have a common theme; they covered Karama's Rooftop Micro Farms in the past months! They were an important link in spreading the information globally about the resilience of the Palestinian refugees that is displayed in this project. Because of these outlets, people in more than 80 countries in the world have heard about this project in Deheishe and became a witness of the creativity and strength of the Palestinian community. Both locally and global Karama has been promoting this idea of self-support through reclaiming was has always been an important part of the Palestinian society: agriculture.

Curious why Karama believes so strongly in this project? Take a look at the pictures, and the harvest will speak for itself! In the last months tens of children watched tomato plants grow more than a meter in the air, and zucchinis getting bigger and bigger till the plant could not carry them anymore. The summer harvest has been more than we imagined and gave and still gives the families a great and valuable addition to their diets. In the long term, it is our aim that this will add to healthier kids and families less dependent on food aid or support from outside.  

The importance of this project for the women of the camp cannot be better shown than by the words from a participant. Asmahan Ramadan, herself born in Deheishe Camp, is part of a family that came from Zakaria, near Jerusalem but fled due to the violence in 1948. Her family worked on their own agricultural land and this new experience of rooftop gardening has made her feel more connected to her family's past. She explains: "It gives me a connection to the land. My family was farmers and I’ve come back to my roots. It gives me the feeling like I’m sitting in a big field. This is my big field.” Besides her family, she also feels she herself benefits from the project. “I feel more empowered,” says Asmahan. “I grow something and I eat from my work. I’m contributing to my family and that’s a good feeling.”

Right now, women are collecting their harvest and preparing for the next season. Seeds from the first harvest can be used to plant new crops. Also when the weather will change in the coming months, the gardens will be protected since the covering will keep the wind out and the warmth inside. In this way, the families will hopefully benefit from two harvests each year. 

Although more funds have been collected through all the attention in the past month, we still want to stress the importance of all our donors for our work. It is very valuable for our organization, to notice that the work is also being supported by individual donors from all over the world! Sharing our experience and work in Deheishe with individuals has always been crucial to Karama and we want to continue with this. So again we want to invite you to read more about our work on our website or contact us by email. We are looking forward to hear from you or meet you once in Deheishe, and we are always grateful for your support.

Harvest Summer 2012
Harvest Summer 2012
Tomato Plants
Tomato Plants

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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!

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Organization Information

Karama Organisation for Women and Children's Development

Location: Bethlehem, West Bank - Palestine
Website:
Facebook: Facebook Page
Project Leader:
Yasser Alhaj
Bethlehem, West Bank Palestine
$29,377 raised of $40,000 goal
 
668 donations
$10,623 to go
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