The project is one of several international support initiatives in the area, and the 聯合國食糧組織 aims to shift away from food stamps to a more sustainable option for residents.
The food shortage is the result of near-total blockade of the region for three years following partial blockages beginning in 2007. Israal enforces an exclusion zone three miles off the coast of 加撒走廊 and over a kilometre from the land border. By making 85 per cent of fishing zones and 34 per cent or remaining agricultural land out of bounds, the lives of 180,000 people are adversely affected.
加撒走廊’s agriculture sector has lost at least $US 180 million due to restricted land use.
Around 97 per cent of the people living in the Gaza Strip are urban or camp dwellers with no access to agricultural land. Approximately 1.7 million people in the area face food insecurity issues.
Beginning in July 2010, the FAO implemented an emergency food production support project funded by the Belgian government which has proven highly successful and continues to expand.
Instead of soil and fertilisers, the FAO team uses water from fish pools which helps to conserve water and produces much-needed protein into residents’ diets.
Plants fed by Aquaponic System. Credit: AFP, Mohammed Abed
“One of the major reasons this is an applicable method in Gaza is the effectiveness with water use,” said Chris Somerville, an FAO agronomist and urban agriculture consultant in Gaza.
“When you are talking about aquaponic or hydroponic or any form of soil-less agriculture, you’re using less than 20 percent of the amount of water.”
Phase One of the FAO project began in 2010 and included giving rooftop aquaponic units to 119 food insecure households headed by women. A further 24 units were installed in educational and community buildings.
Phase Two involved a further 100 rooftop units including fish tanks connected to gardens through pipes and aquaponics with containers below to grow food.
Aquaponics is sustainable a way to produce food by using fish farming in a re-circulating agricultural system. It is essentially a combination of aquaculture (raising fish in tanks) and hydroponics (cultivating plants in water).
Waste water from fish tanks is reused as organic fertiliser to feed the plants while the plants clean the water, making it safe for the fish.
Aquaponics is a strong solution to food production issues in many land-deprived areas as two products can be produced without the need for much arable land. It uses up to 50 per cent less water than traditional soil farming while also producing healthy fish for consumption.
Urban Farming in Gaza. Credit: UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation
The methods for harvesting food grown from aquaponics are very simple and the practice is environmentally friendly, creating no waste during the production process. Simple technology can be used to create an aquaponic system such as gravel, basic plumbing and plastic containers.
For many former farmers and fishermen who no longer have access to their work environments, aquaponics can be used in all urban areas to provide for their families.
Gaza was formerly known for its fishing industry and export of flowers and fruit before the restrictions on land began and many were left unemployed.
“In 加撒走廊 there is effectively no hinterland to produce food. With urban sprawl being such a prevalent force in Gaza, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to produce food for the population here,” Somerville said.
He hopes the aquaponic urban farming project will continue to grow and feed the people who need it.
By Kristen Avis