This is the time of year when gardeners start to reap their rewards-fruits and vegetables that make for a healthy feast. But for the people of Gaza, gardens produce a serving of self-sufficiency, too.
Urban gardens usually bring to mind savvy urbanites indulging in an organic lifestyle-witness Michelle Obama and her model urban garden at the White House. Although urban gardens in the West may not be a total indulgence-Ms. Obama, for example, is trying to counteract the growing instances of diabetes and obesity-they are hardly a necessity.
In the Gaza Strip, on the other hand, where more than 80 percent of residents are dependent on food aid, urban gardens mean survival, and resistance to Israel’s policies of occupation and blockade. When only half of the U.N.’s food aid is actually allowed in to Gaza (during the last siege on Gaza, only 10% of the food trucks were allowed entry), planting an edible garden on just a scrap of land can be enough to ensure self-sufficiency. In an enormously insecure and unstable zone, a simple urban garden ensures food security, and food sovereignty.
The World Food Programme says “Gazans face an acute shortage of nutritious, locally-produced and affordable food.” The drastically reduced consumption of meat, oils, fats, fruits and dairy products can lead to anemia and stunted growth. Fifteen percent of Palestinian schoolchildren are “intellectually impaired” due to malnutrition, according to the Gaza Community Mental Health Program. Since last December, the price of pepper has doubled, the price of onions increased 33% and chicken 43%.
Urban gardens are just now gaining popularity in the West, thanks to the rise of environmentalism and health awareness (Ms. Obama only planted hers in April). But Grassroots International, a Boston-based nonprofit has been funding efforts to plant urban gardens in the Gaza Strip for the last five years.