Recent reports that people in the Gaza Strip are embracing rooftop gardening has got us thinking about the urban gardening phenomena and it’s relevance to the Middle East. Whilst growing your own maybe something greenies love to do, there is a real incentive for those who have not bought into the green-agenda to take part too. That’s the beauty of urban gardening: it works on lots of levels and has multiple benefits. So as well as helping to reduce air pollution, keeping the city cool during hot summers and warmer during cold winters, the rooftop crops can help those living in poverty stave off starvation and even generate a decent income.
‘I Just Want To Feed My Family’
Neveen Metwally, a researcher at the Central Laboratory for Agriculture Climate in Cairo, Egypt spoke to IRIN about urban gardening in the region. She explained that city dwellers must be convinced of the benefits of urban horticulture by focusing on the needs of ordinary people and the benefits that urban agriculture brings to them. “I can say to someone, ‘A rooftop garden will help the environment’, and they’ll say, ‘No, thank you – I just want to feed my family’. So I must identify and communicate benefits that are of interest to that person.”
Metwallly added that in Egypt the numerous benefits of rooftop gardens include decreasing air pollution which has been a huge concerns for many living in the highly polluted city. Cairo along with other Middle Eastern cities such as Tehran, are known for their dangerously high air pollution. In fact, it was recently reported that 27 people die every day in Tehran due to air pollution-related disease and the Egyptian capital’s air pollution is aggravated by the annual rice burning season which turns the city dark with black smoke.
Building Resilient Cities
Rooftop gardens can also help absorb heat and act as insulators, reducing the energy needed for cooling or heating; provide low-cost food and also a refuge for bird, bees and insects. These benefits are clearly transferable across the Middle East region and urban agriculture can play an important role in strengthening the resilience of cities and their populations against the impacts of climate change. According to the UN Population Fund, about half the world population already lives in urban areas with the number expected to reach some five billion by 2030.
Being able to supply their own fruit and vegetables is clearly an advantage in a time of food scarcity and rising prices. And it’s also not impossible. Hong Kong and Singapore, for example, both produce more than 20% of their meat and vegetables within the city limits. As well as the environmental and economic benefits, rooftop gardens also bring a much needed splash of colour to our rather grey concrete jungles so lets get gardening!
:: IRIN Report
:: Image via Argenberg on flickr.
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