Scientist Found a Way How to Plant a Garden from an Old Mattresses

Discovery Mar 12, 2021

After the war crisis in Syria, thousands of families were forced to leave their homes seeking safety in refugee camps. One of the camps like this, the Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan, is the largest refugee camp that gives shelter for 80.000 Syrian people. Around half of the refugees are children. For now, all these families have no possibility of neither return to their homes nor moving from the camp. Youngsters have no access to education, a lot of former farmers left their lands, families abandoned their houses. All these people are staying in the camp for months without purpose or idea of what will wait for them in the future, surrounded by the brown landscape of the refugee camp.

They are surviving on humanitarian aid with the lack of sufficient food supplies. Their new reality consists of poor soil, lack of water, and local law restrictions to plant anything in the ground, preventing them from growing their own food.

Despite these problems, the Zaatari camp is representative of its recycling management in Jordan. Professor Tony Ryan and a group of scientists from the University of Sheffield were invited to find a solution for dozens of unrecyclable polyurethane foam mattresses which became impracticable and were covered with dust in a warehouse. Being aware of both problems they found a brilliant solution. Having experience in soil-free hydroponic food production they proposed to use polyurethane from the mattresses as a substitution of the soil.

The low-tech hydroponic system built from a piece of mattresses as drainpipes and yogurt containers evolved from the local initiative to the Desert Garden project in 2017. Since its beginning, the project trained more than 1000 refugees, helped to set up and use the hydroponic system in 500 households.

The model “train the trainer” should make the camp’s garden fully self-sustaining within a few years. These upcycle gardens allow people in the camp to produce not only a variety of fresh fruits, vegetables, and herbs but also to have their own green area which has a positive influence on their mental well being.

Zaatari gardens give not only food but also a feeling of after-war purpose, empowerment, and community. The project started from Zaatari camp will be further implemented in Azraq camp and other urban areas in Jordan. This experience and advancing research in hydroponic gardening open a lot of possibilities to the global community since in the next decade scientists predict there will be more refugees not only due to war conflicts around the world but also due to climate change. This method gives hope to provide fresh food to people in crisis and have the possibility to create more workplaces for refugees in the future.

They are surviving on humanitarian aid with the lack of sufficient food supplies. Their new reality consists of poor soil, lack of water, and local law restrictions to plant anything in the ground, preventing them from growing their own food.

Despite these problems, the Zaatari camp is representative of its recycling management in Jordan. Professor Tony Ryan and a group of scientists from the University of Sheffield were invited to find a solution for dozens of unrecyclable polyurethane foam mattresses which became impracticable and were covered with dust in a warehouse. Being aware of both problems they found a brilliant solution. Having experience in soil-free hydroponic food production they proposed to use polyurethane from the mattresses as a substitution of the soil.

The low-tech hydroponic system built from a piece of mattresses as drainpipes and yogurt containers evolved from the local initiative to the Desert Garden project in 2017. Since its beginning, the project trained more than 1000 refugees, helped to set up and use the hydroponic system in 500 households.

The model “train the trainer” should make the camp’s garden fully self-sustaining within a few years. These upcycle gardens allow people in the camp to produce not only a variety of fresh fruits, vegetables, and herbs but also to have their own green area which has a positive influence on their mental well being. Zaatari gardens give not only food but also a feeling of after-war purpose, empowerment, and community.

The project started from Zaatari camp will be further implemented in Azraq camp and other urban areas in Jordan. This experience and advancing research in hydroponic gardening open a lot of possibilities to the global community since in the next decade scientists predict there will be more refugees not only due to war conflicts around the world but also due to climate change. This method gives hope to provide fresh food to people in crisis and have the possibility to create more workplaces for refugees in the future.

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