Palestinian engineer pioneers hydroponics farm in northern Gaza Strip

Tuesday October 22 2019

Palestinian agricultural engineer Irada

Palestinian agricultural engineer Irada al-Za'anin works inside her "water farm" in her house in the northern Gaza Strip town of Beit Hanoun, Sept. 17, 2019. (Photo Credit: Rizek Abdeljawad/Xinhua)  

To overcome the agricultural problems faced by farmers in the besieged Gaza Strip, newly-graduated Palestinian agricultural engineer Irada al-Za'anin has established the first-ever “water farm” in her house.

The project aims to reduce the area used in agriculture, saving effort and time as well as maintaining the amount of water used for irrigation.

Al-Za'anin, 24, from the northern Gaza Strip town of Beit Hanoun, implemented her agricultural project, which is the first of its kind in Gaza, on 70 square meters of water basins, planting basic agricultural crops such as tomato, eggplant, chilli, cucumber, lemon and other crops.

“Last month I reaped tomatoes, which were equivalent to a ton of healthy and fresh tomatoes. This is a proof of the success of my project,” al-Za’anin told Chinese news agenxy Xinhua, while picking eggplants.

“The aquaculture project is primarily aimed at increasing the amounts of agricultural crops, which can be up to three times higher than those normally grown in soils,” she said.

She noted that saving time and efforts also encouraged farmers to adopt this type of agriculture in the near future.

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The young woman stressed that hydroponics is not costly and could also contribute to self-sufficiency in agricultural crops, adding that it helps secure all crops throughout the year.

Hydroponics is a method of growing plants using mineral nutrients in water without soil. It typically uses 90 percent less water than the conventional agriculture does. This is a useful method for agriculture in water-scarce areas.

The Gaza Strip suffers from an acute lack of water for domestic and agricultural use. Over 90% of water in the Gaza Strip is contaminated as spare parts to repair purification plants are not allowed in due to Israeli restrictions on Gaza.

In addition, agricultural lands are declining as a result of the growing population in the Israeli-besieged seaside territory. This has further contributed to the eradication of agricultural areas.

“This agricultural system will provide more safe and healthy food since farmers will not need to use chemical pesticides and industrial hormones,” al-Za’anin said.

In her agricultural project, al-Za’anin relies on water basins, which are sterilized by moving them through electric pumps that supply oxygen to ensure that water is not contaminated.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Agriculture in Gaza said that the project of al-Za’anin is a pioneering project that ensures sustainable development, in addition to being an environment-friendly project.

“Al-Za’anin has been able to prove that Palestinian youths are able to creatively challenge the blockade of Gaza,” Adham al-Bassiouni, director of agricultural ministry in northern Gaza, told Xinhua.

Al-Bassiouni added that such development projects are usually a key factor for many farmers who are trying to maximize yield and profit with limited land and resources.

He noted that the ministry encouraged al-Za'anin to continue her project and transfer her experience to other farmers.

The official also pointed out that electricity shortages in Gaza (also a result of the blockade) are likely  to threaten the success of this project since electric pumps are required to move the stagnant water used in agriculture.

The Gaza Strip has been placed under a tight Israeli blockade since 2006 when the Hamas movement won elections there.

In the past decade, Israel has attacked the Gaza Strip three times three, resulting in the loss of thousands of Palestinian lives and thousands of farms and buildings in the coastal enclave.

Israel also imposed a buffer zone along the Gaza-Israel borders that takes up 17 percent of Gaza's total land. This has made over one-third of farmland unsafe, with areas close to the border fence being the most restricted.

Credit: Xinhua Agency / Afro-Palestine Newswire Service