Read caption Saadia and Abo Faisal have a cup of tea in front of the greenhouse every evening. They invite all the other families to join them - just as they did in Syria before the war. “I love our life here now. This project made me feel home away from home”, says Saadia. Photo: Hassan Hijazi/ NRC

A green spot in the desert

Hassan Hijazi|Published 26. Jan 2018
Syrian and Jordanian families profit from greenhouses in northern Jordan.

After driving for two hours, we reached a wide, deserted area. Nothing would grow on that land. Then, after the last turn, we saw six wonderful greenhouses. Six families are using them for farming.  By using water instead of soil, known as the hydroponics system, the plants consume less water, and don’t need to be watered daily.

The idea of using this method in planting belongs to Jordanian Abo Motaz. He works at the local association in Mafraq governorate, in the north of Jordan.

“Jordan is poor with water and we don’t have many natural resources, we had to come up with a new way in planting,” he says.

Life in the desert

Sitting on the soil with a cup of sweet tea, Syrian refugee Abo Faisal explains to us how this project changed his life.

“I worked as a farmer in Syria.”

Abo Faisal fled to Jordan in 2013 after the war escalated in his home town Homs.

“My hometown was a green place, full of trees, plants and water. I lived nearby a lake. I’m not used to the desert. I was devastated when I first came here.” 

Abo Faisal has nine children. Since the war started, most of them have been displaced and living in different countries, but three are in Jordan with him and his wife Saiida. They go to farming classes and math and English tutoring classes at Mkefteh local association, the Norwegian Refugee Council ’s (NRC) partner. One of his children helps Abo Faisal with the farming, while the other two are in school.

Abo Faisal tells us that he heard about NRC’s greenhouse project through the association.

“The association helped me find a house with water and electricity. After a while, Abo Motaz told me about the greenhouse project,” he says. “It was the first time I heard about the hydroponics system. We never used it in Syria. All I knew was farming with fertile soil and water.”

  

Read caption Nothing would grow on the deserted and wide area in northern Jordan, but this greenhouses make it possible: six families are farming here, using a new planting method. Photo: Hassan Hijazi/NRC

 

Helping Syrian and Jordanian families

NRC is working to increase the opportunities for Syrian refugees and their Jordanian neighbours to earn an income. In collaboration with the Mkefteh local association, we carried out a pilot project for agriculture in the area.

Because of limited rainfall, agricultural production is poor and requires heavy investment. Our partner, Mkefteh association, conducted trainings for the farmers on the hydroponic system and they could start producing vegetables. So far the project is helping six Jordanian and Syrian families.

Economic benefits

The families have benefited economically from managing the production of their own greenhouse. The skills they have learned will be helpful as long as they stay in Jordan, and if someday they choose to return to Syria and continue with farming there.

“We sold the last harvest, which was cucumbers,” says Abo Motaz. He is responsible for marketing the products. “We had some hiccups, but it is all part of the learning process. We will avoid these mistakes next time.”

The upcoming product is beans. It is still in its first stage, but the farmers are looking forward to collect the harvest.

Cohesion and friendship

“I love our life here now,” says Saiida, Abo Faisal’s wife, with tears of both joy and longing. “I know we live far from home, but this project made me feel at home away from home.”

Every evening, she and her husband sit in front of the greenhouse to drink a cup of tea.

“All the other families always come to join us. We did the same in Syria.” 

While Abo Faisal and Saiida talk about their new life in Jordan, Faleh, a Jordanian farmer and one of the families working in the project, interrupts: “We are one family now. There is no difference. I enjoy working with Abo Faisal in the greenhouse. We worked in farms and had good jobs. We have all been affected by the war in Syria. We are facing many challenges with the refugees being here, but they have the right to work as we do.”