Hydroponic cultivation can play an important role in meeting food security challenges. A small area can produce many fruits and vegetables at a very low cost with little more than PVC pipes and a small pump to circulate nutrients.
Gaza, with one of the highest population densities in the world, is in dire need of hydroponic agriculture. Anera has piloted an educational hydroponic unit with a women’s cooperative. And we are in the process of replicating the pilot for use by individual families in their home gardens.
In 2019 Anera installed a rooftop hydroponic greenhouse system for a women’s center in Beit Hanoun, Gaza. The new greenhouse at the Cooperative Society for Savings and Lending allows women at the Society to grow fresh produce for use in their cooperative projects. Two distinct cultivation techniques can be practiced with the hydroponics system as well as traditional cultivation in pots.
The first cultivation technique is a deep water hydroponic system. It is used to cultivate leafy plants such as lettuce, arugula and mint. The second technique is the Dutch bucket hydroponic system, appropriate for cultivating fruit-bearing plants such as tomatoes, cucumbers, eggplants and peppers. The greenhouse is also equipped for traditional cultivation in pots.
Installing hydroponic growing systems
Plants need water, nutrients, minerals, air and sun to grow. In traditional agriculture, plants obtain minerals and water through the soil substrate.
Hydroponics systems do not need soil. Rather, plant roots grow directly in water or in a substrate other than soil like gravel, coconut shells or the mineral vermiculite. Hydroponic agriculture can grow 10 times or more the number of plants in the same area as traditional farming. And it also provides control over temperature and humidity.
Since no soil is needed, hydroponic gardens can be built on rooftops and other non-arable areas. They can be used in very small areas like an apartment balcony or basement, as well as in greenhouses and home gardens. They can also be scaled up to the size of industrial farms.
An advantage of hydroponics of particular importance in Gaza is that water can be purified at a lower cost than soil. This is useful because much of the soil in Gaza is polluted with heavy minerals or is so high in salinity that few crops can grow.
Another crucial benefit of hydroponics is the lower water needs of the technique. In a region like Gaza where clean water is very scarce, conserving water is all-important. Hydroponic systems require only 10-20 percent of the water needed in traditional systems.
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