Crops have been grown on buildings in towns and cities in Jordan thanks to an innovative research project backed by Shropshire's agricultural university's expertise. The scheme, which aims to boost food security in the Middle East by helping to grow crops in urban areas, was led by Harper Adams University lecturer Jonathan Cooper in collaboration with partners at Jordan's Royal Scientific Society (RSS).
Its aim was to help implement systems in Jordanian communities which enabled crops to be grown in new places – boosting resilience and food security for those involved. It saw the rooftops of a family home and a community centre in two localities in Jordan – at Assalt and Al-Ashrafeyya – transformed into sites for crops as part of a three-part urban farming initiative.
At the community organisation, a soilless agriculture system on the roof helped grow quantities of tomatoes – a staple used in many Jordanian dishes which could then be cooked in the centre’s on-site kitchen. At the family home, a hydroponic vertical farming system was used to grow celery and onions – and at both sites, as word spread in the local community, interested neighbours began to visit to find out more, spread the word about the projects – and buy produce.
A further innovative ‘green wall’ was also developed at RSS headquarters in Jordan’s capital, Amman. Dr Cooper from Harper Adams University, in Edgmond, near Newport, said: “Most people in these communities had never seen anything like these projects before – but they could see for themselves the benefits for the people involved.
Dr Almoayied Assayed, Director of the Water and Environment Centre at RSS, said: “The food security of poor urban people is sensitive to changes in market prices and incomes. For the long-term potential impacts, this project will promote urban farming systems in poor areas in Jordan – thus enhancing food availability and creating more jobs for local community members.”
“Some 40 days after planting on the rooftop, the family household was able to harvest more than 25 kg of celery and onions; they consumed some and sold the rest.” Dr Cooper added: “Working on this project – despite the unexpected challenges the past year presented – has led to direct improvements for two Jordanian communities, and has also helped to build links between institutions in the Middle East and here in the UK."
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