As the most densely populated area in the entire world, the Gaza Strip is understandably short of space. People live in overcrowded concrete homes separated by narrow alleyways and agricultural land is in short supply considering there is a need for food to replenish 1.5 million Palestinians, who also happen to live under blockade. In response to this situation, Gazans have taken to greening their roofs by planting herbs and vegetables to help supplement their diets and also generate a small income by selling excess produce.
‘What We Grow Feed Us’
According to the BBC, Israel has for many years restricted entry to and exit from Gaza, but it intensified its blockade of Gaza in June 2007 when Hamas took over, causing severe shortages. The dire situation in Gaza has already pushed the population towards more resilient energy supplies such as solar energy for electricity, solar ovens and electric cars. At is stands, the majority live in severe poverty and 80 percent are food-aid dependent.
“We grow on our roof because we are farmers but have no land now,” says Moatassan Hamad, 21, from Beit Hanoun in the northern Gaza Strip in an IPS article. “Our family is large and thankfully what we grow feeds us. Cabbage and eggplants in winter, and endochriyya [a plant used for making soup] and chili and garlic and onions in summer. And other things that we can sell, like flowers and palm tree seedlings.”
A Green Tranquil Island
On another roof in central Gaza, Abu Jihad raises around 100 chickens on his roof to help feed his family. He also added that the quality of his eggs and meat is often better than factory-farmed chickens because of the natural food he gives them. “I don’t feed them any steroids or chemicals, just vegetable peelings and dried bread and seeds, and I let them walk around on the roof every day.”
For many Gazans, these green roofs are also a place to socialise and relax as there is little space for communal activities in the Gaza Strip. Or a place to find peace and quiet in often overcrowded homes. As Hamad explains, “There is no space in camps, no trees, no public gardens. Our friends and guests like to sit up here, because most of them don’t have anything like this.”
Although the Gazans have been pushed to plant their roofs out of necessity, there is no reason why the entire Middle East shouldn’t follow their lead. The region is full of bare flat roofs that are would benefit from a bit of (edible) greenery!
:: IPS and image via Eva Bartlett/IPS.
For more on greening Gaza see: