Irada tends to her hydroponic farm in Beit Hanoun, Gaza. © 2019 UNRWA Photo
24-year-old agricultural engineer Irada al-Zaáneen, from Beit Hanoun in the northern Gaza Strip, has led the way to hydroculture in the blockaded enclave by launching a hydroponic farm, which is a method of growing plants without soil by instead using mineral nutrient solutions in a water solvent.
In a new success story covered by the UN relief agency for Palestine refugees (UNRWA), Palestinian refugee engineer Irada al-Zaáneen defied the crippling economic situation and limited job opportunities in the Strip, finally deciding to give life to her graduate research project by launching her very own hydroponics farm.
“Luckily, I was one of 200 people to receive training on green technology and environmentally friendly farming techniques. This really enhanced my knowledge and encourages me to launch my project,” said Irada, who pursued her studies at AlAzhar University.
Hydroponics, the cultivation of plants using mineral nutrients in water, consumes 90 per cent less water than traditional agriculture. It also allows ranches to yield high crops while at the same time trimming down farm size. Irada relies on water basins, which purifies water by moving it through electric pumps.
Irada grows her crops with deep passion and enthusiasm, breeding her tomatoes, eggplant, chili, cucumber and lemon crops, among other crops at some 70 square meters from her home.
“This is my dream and while a lot of people have challenged my success - many of them expected me to fail - I’ve remained determined to continue, to explore and develop. I am now full of pride and energy to continue and expand my farm,” she said, quoted by UNRWA.
“I’m very happy, especially when farmers, university students and members of local community associations come to visit. They have so many questions about my farm!” she added.
Challenging the socio-economic restrictions inflicted upon her geographic location, Irada seeks to push the boundaries of her ground-breaking project beyond the constraints of the blockade which confined the coastal enclave into what has become known as the world’s “largest open-air prison” for the 13th consecutive year.