Gaza Strip is marked by highly limited area of land and rapid population growth. Gaza is one of the most densely populated places on earth, with 4,742 inhabitants per square kilometre. In 2005, the population of Gaza Strip was estimated to be 1.39 million which has risen to around 1.85 million by the end of 2015. This increase of population clearly affected the distribution of residential and agricultural areas in the Strip, where the total area of the Strip is 365 sq. km and agricultural land area is 75.2 sq. km which is considered to be 20.6% of the total area. Israel has also turned more than a third of Gaza’s agricultural lands into a buffer zone near its border with the coastal enclave which implies that Palestinian farmers have very limited access to the area, and often risk being shot at by the Israeli soldiers stationed nearby.
One of the proposed solutions to land scarcity, food insecurity and Israeli aggression in the Gaza Strip is the development of rooftop agriculture. Rooftop agriculture is a modern agriculture method which involves rooftops space utilization in cities by planting profitable trees for the production of household needs like vegetables, fruits and medicinal and aromatic plants and ornamental plants. This can be achieved by changing the place of traditional agriculture using soil-less agriculture techniques and take advantage of the nature of the city in improving the environment and the climate prevailing there. Some of the benefits of green rooftops are as follows
- Mitigate the climate change impacts by reducing carbon dioxide emissions and producing oxygen.
- Adapt to climate change impacts, by reducing heat absorbed by the building roof and thus increases building life span and reduce the energy consumed by buildings.
- Exploitation of neglected spaces, and get rid of trash and waste that are stored on rooftops which acts as a shelter for insects, rodents etc
- Increasing green spaces and production of some of the food requirements of building residents
- Provide a recreational place for building residents.
Natuf Organization for Environment and Community Development has implemented a promising initiative called “Trend towards roofs Agriculture as a solution for mitigation of climate change impact in the Gaza Strip.” within the “Environmental Leaders towards a Sustainable Community” project. The project has been setup in collaboration with the Arab Youth Climate Movement – Palestine, funded by the European Union and the United Nations Development Programme through the GEF-Small Grants Program.
The initiative is aimed at creating a practical model for rooftop agriculture in the Gaza Strip to promote this solution among people and other institutions. Rooftop agriculture will increase green areas and reduce carbon dioxide proportion, which would help in adapting to the climate change impacts in short term and to mitigate climate change impacts in the long term.
The initiative was carried out at Atfaluna Association for the Deaf Children, by a youth team and with participation of deaf students from Atfaluna Association. The implementation period of the initiative was two months, and the activities were divided to two phases; the first phase involved a workshop for the staff and teachers of Atfaluna School for Deaf, as well as a workshop for deaf students. The workshop, attended by around 70 people, focused on the climate change issue and the trend towards rooftop agriculture as a tool for climate change mitigation, and how to plant roofs and take care of it.
In the second phase, around 100 square meters of rooftop areas was planted with ornamental plants, by using planting in soil method. This type of trees and planting method was chosen in order to achieve the principle of sustainability and because the building was for service industry, not for living. The initiative focused on the exploitation of unused waste and utilizing it through the formation of them once again as agricultural basins, where it was using timber, iron, and used tires.
To sum up, rooftop agriculture has immense potential to answer innumerable economic and social hurdles by ordinary Gazans every day, and more initiatives are required to ease the suffering of the entire population of the Gaza Strip.
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