From Consumers to Producers: Four Women from the Hydroponic Project Speak
In a joint project conducted earlier this year, the MAAN Workers Association and Sindyanna of Galilee trained a group of women from the village of Baqa al-Gharbiyye to grow plants using hydroponics. Growing organic vegetables at home contributes to household livelihoods, a clean and healthy environment and can also provide additional income. It is suitable for both housewives and for women who work outside the home. Of the ten women who enrolled in a course supervised by Sahirab Masarwa, an environmental activist and expert in hydroponics, six women persisted and completed the training. In October, each graduate received a hydroponic system consisting of four pipes, a pump and an acid meter, and in November they already began eating their own homegrown starchy vegetables, lettuce, mint, parsley, basil, arugala, peppers, coriander and celery. Here they share with us a bit about the process they underwent from being consumers to producers.
Mofida Abu Moch: I really enjoy growing green leaves and spice plants without using any spray and chemicals. What can be done against harmful insects? It’s enough to spray water with some vinegar and soap, which is much healthier than all types of insecticides. In general, plants help our environment and health while the project further saves water and does not require much space, time or physical effort. Most of what I’ve planted has thrived, apart from basil, but in the end I’ll know how to grow that too. We must get through the winter, protecting the plants from strong rain using plastic or mesh cover. Plenty of women ask me how and who can learn this, how much it costs to install a system and how long it takes for plants to grow. Currently I am growing 60 plants, and after I get a little more experience I’ll expand the system and the amount of crops. I’m ready to come and do tutorials in schools on how to use hydroponic systems on walls or roofs, and help schools begin a similar project. I hope the project develops, and I’m searching for a potential partner and buyers for our group’s produce. Maybe each of us will specialize in growing certain vegetables, and then we can grow serious amounts of diverse crops.
Marva Ghaneim: Frankly, hen we started studying hydroponics I still wasn’t really excited about the project, because I had no idea what it was all about. Then I began reading articles on the subject to understand more and they opened my eyes. From the moment I assembled the system, I started dealing with the environment and the state of the earth. I stopped using disposable tools, reused plastic bags and even brought my own glass to the cafe and thus paid less. I stopped using plastic bottles that are known to pollute the environment, and I teach kids not to litter, because we should help the environment instead of polluting it. My kids were excited right from the start because they noticed that the lettuce and mint I put in the fridge were easily spoiled, while that grown in water with no fertilization or spraying was much more delicious. I installed my hydroponic plumbing on the roof on portable faucets, and then moved it to a more shaded spot to protect from excessive sunshine. I want to try growing hydroponic strawberries without sprays and hormones, because I believe they turn out much more delicious and healthy, and I may be able to grow flowers, which are in great demand.
Inshirah Fares Nadaf: I have been working for 41 years in handicrafts, sewing and embroidery, and have never worked in agriculture. I wanted to diversify and do something after work, even if it took a few times to get right. I successfully grow celery, mint and lettuce and want to add parsley, and currently devote no more than an hour a day to this. Suddenly I began to enjoy drinking coffee on the roof, to be refreshed while watching the plants grow. Now as I’m standing at home talking to you on the phone, I’m enjoying the smell of the mint that wafts this far. In preparation for the rains I will have to protect the plants, and arrange for them to be covered. At first my family didn’t know how to relate to this project, but now everyone is excited and many people come to visit me and see how it works. I expect that as I expand the hydroponic system, I can start selling the crops and enjoy additional income.
Huda Biadessa: At first I wasn’t sure I wanted to buy a hydroponic system and get into it. I thought that because I was living on the second floor, it was too high and unsuitable. But my husband encouraged me, people from MAAN Workers Association and Sindyanna of Galiliee gained my trust and in the end I installed the system on the roof of my relative Ibtisam, who is also participating in the project. Once I started – I fell in love and will never give it up. I planted lettuce, mint, coriander, arugula and celery. They look prettier and brighter than what I buy, haven’t been sprayed with chemicals and have a heavenly taste. I have a part-time job in a nursing home, and when I return home I check the acidity of the water, whether or not it evaporated and whether the pump is working properly. It’s not difficult and after training, anyone can do it. I don’t stop talking to everyone about the subject, posting photos on Facebook, and lots of people come to see. After the first round is over, I want to try growing sweet red peppers, cucumbers and za’atar. My sisters see the difference between what grows in land and water, and they also get excited and want to grow their own at home. Additionally, I am now more aware of the importance of protecting the environment from pollution and dirt, and will even go out to demonstrate for it.
Hydroponic systems at the Masar school in Nazareth
We recently launched an exciting project with the Masar Institute for Education in Nazareth which advocates a proactive and progressive view of development and solutions to deep societal problems in the Arab community.
The pilot for this project, which will take place in 2022 and 2023, will include equipping and training a few kindergarten and middle school classes, as well as several of the school’s students and their parents, on how to create hydroponic systems for growing vegetables in a closed circle of water.
The project will also offer “peak events” for the entire school and community, as well as involve various media channels, to ensure that it reaches many more people and can be replicated elsewhere.
Read more about this project here.