Bridgeview, Illinois — Zakat Foundation of America and American Near East Refugee Aid (ANERA) have agreed to build, equip, and seed 48 greenhouses over the next three years to feed food-insecure families in Gaza year-round, increase their incomes, and provide them with specialized sustainable farming training.
“All the recent studies of Gaza tell us that its people are literally locked in a catastrophic tailspin of unsustainable living conditions that are worsening by the day, especially when it comes to nutritious food and clean water,” says Halil Demir, Zakat Foundation’s executive director. “At the same time, they’ve suffered a life-threatening humanitarian aid cut. We want to put fresh, healthy vegetable production in the hands of as many marginalized families as we can and give them an income stream that feeds others.”
The Gaza Home Gardens and Food Security Enhancement Program targets highly vulnerable families — those with female-headed households, children under 5, or disabled, elderly, or chronically ill members. The World Food Programme reports that 39 percent of Gazans, almost two in five, suffer food insecurity and dependency on food assistance, a serious health threat especially to the very young and old.
“Within months of greenhouse construction, families will be harvesting food from their new home gardens, with the facilities and ability to grow food throughout the year,” says Ellen Giordano, ANERA’s vice president of new business development.
The project includes funding for upgrading farmers’ skills through four one-day training seminars on best practices for vegetable growing, composting, pest management, and water conserving irrigation techniques, which utilizes plastic reservoirs provided to families for days when water is cut off. An array of field extension services will also help farmers throughout the program.
Planners calculate the home gardens will directly benefit at least 384 individuals with fresh food and extra income from sales, while hiring locals to construct the greenhouses and acquiring building supplies from Gaza businesses.
Palestinian experts will also oversee the program’s agricultural implementation, coordination, and outreach. ANERA staff boast nearly a decade of success with similar greenhouse programs in Gaza, as well as in water, sanitation, and hygiene projects, known as WASH, a key Sustainable Development Goal established in 2015 by the United Nations.