Palestinian Said Salim Abu Nasser is on a mission to make urban farming more sustainable. He transformed a derelict lot in Gaza City into a 200 square meter micro-farm that produces safe and affordable food in a maximally sustainable way.
Abu Nasser has created a tiny urban farmstead using a hydroponic system. On the roof of his six-story apartment tower he cultivates red and green peppers and mint in large plastic tubs. His ground level garden boasts aubergines and a variety of green leafy vegetables, which he nurtures using homemade organic pest-control solutions consisting of garlic, pepper, and soap. His soil-less farm is about six years old, and his experiments aim to improve the quality of life in Gaza.
“My plants are now bearing fruit for the first time,” he told Gulf Times, “I am so happy, but I really want to make it even better.”
Almost 2 million people live in the Gaza strip, as the population grows, new housing is taking up land previously used by farms, requiring that alternative means of vegetable growing are urgently needed. To that end, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) has supported 219 households with rooftop hydroponic gardens. Under that program, Abu Nasser received about $5,400 USD and training in hydroponic techniques.
“The water in Gaza is not suitable and requires a special treatment,” he told Gulf Times.The plants sit in polystyrene panels, which float in troughs, with roots hanging in water. Abu Nasser adds minerals such as magnesium and calcium to the water, and watches how the plants react. The electricity for the water pumps comes from solar collectors on the roof.
In his day job, Abu Nasser works at the Interior Ministry of Hamas, which governs the Gaza strip. Simultaneously, As an amateur farmer, the 53-year-old now produces about 3,500 kilograms of food. That’s enough to feed 30 people. At first, his lettuce plants did not grow. But six years on, he now says he has given 2,000 heads of lettuce to his friends and family, as well as 200 kilograms of aubergines and 100 kilograms of peppers.
Most importantly, his urban farm is serving as a test lab that is showing others how to make small-scale urban agriculture maximally sustainable.
Learn more in this short film produced by Palestinian freelance filmmaker Yasser Abu Wazna.
Across the planet, and increasingly in urban environments, small-scale farmers are demonstrating a powerful potential in feeding the growing global population in a way that increases both human and planetary health, with favorable economics. Search through the Green Prophet archive using “hydroponics” and “urban farming“, and see if you’re inspired to move beyond a few kitchen herbs in windowsill pots.