Palestinians transform Bethlehem rooftop with innovative hydroponic farming

On a rooftop in Bethlehem, Palestinians are using innovative farming techniques to grow cucumbers.

Under an opaque white tent, cucumbers are concealed behind large green leaves stretching to the ceiling. The crop stands beside tall tomato plants, while pots of mint line a low pool and lettuce leaves spring out from rows of pipes.

The hydroponic garden on top of the Lajee Centre in Aida refugee camp, in the occupied West Bank, has been months in the making.  With no green space on their doorstep, residents created the rooftop garden in 2014. They expanded the project late last year with the help of pipes and other equipment, to grow food using hydroponics. “We saw that we can have natural solutions to get rid of all the diseases,” Ms. Alazzeh said. “For example, we can use paper, garlic, ladybugs.”

The team at the Lajee Centre received financial support from organizations including 1for3, a charity working with Palestinian refugees, as well as backing from Tufts University in the US. Additionally, the garden project won a grant this year from the UK’s University of St. Andrews. A Palestinian farmer who had tried out hydroponics also offered advice, while Ms. Alazzeh said she has a stack of books and manuals to learn more about the method.

“For those who are not familiar with growing food it can be frustrating because you need to dedicate time and effort,” said Mr. Caputo, a senior lecturer in architecture at the University of Kent in the UK.

At Aida, residents who take part in the center’s health program, who often suffer from chronic diseases, help to look after the plants and take the produce home.

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