Despite the Odds, Rafah Farmers Continue Harvesting Crops
Mahmoud is still growing tomatoes in his greenhouse in the midst of the COVID-19 lockdown
It is another hot, late summer day in Gaza. Mahmoud, 52, has already put in a full day of work. He begins his morning in his Anera-built greenhouse in the southern city of Rafah. He lives with 11 members of his multi-generational family in one small house.
Nothing pleases him more than the tomatoes flourishing in his new greenhouse. “The greenhouse provides an escape from my dilapidated house. I feel revitalized breathing in the air in this patch of green,” he says.
Mahmoud began farming over two decades ago, picking up the trade from his father and forefathers. He mainly grows tomatoes because they are one of the few crops that can withstand the high water salinity in Rafah.
Life can be overwhelming in Rafah where poverty and employment are rampant. Mahmoud has long been anxious about his ability to pay for school supplies and textbooks for his children and college tuition for his two daughters.
"This greenhouse has had a huge impact on my life," Mahmoud says. Before Anera finished building the greenhouse, Mahmoud did not have stable work. He grew what he could in his small plot of land. But he lacked useful farm equipment.
Despite the recent growth in COVID-19 cases and the resulting lockdown, Mahmoud is still able to make $50 (170 NIS) per week. That’s more than enough to buy essential groceries, he says. Now that he can earn around $235 (800 NIS) each month, he says they have been able to expand the family budget a bit and their situation has improved.
“I couldn’t imagine my life without this greenhouse. Maybe one day I can build a house -- one that keeps out the rain in the winter and the heat of the summer. And maybe even start my own business and double my revenue. This greenhouse is my first step down this road.”
But for now, Mahmoud is pragmatic about the present moment even as he maintains hope with plans for the future.