by Amber

Surviving With Aquaponics

The practice of using fish waste to grow fresh vegetables, and raising meat at the same time is catching on everywhere. Awareness that there are more efficient ways to feed the world than previously believed is spreading fast, but what if you had no way to get to food? Not being snow bound for a few days in winter, or found yourself stuck in some inner city food desert. What if were you lived was the middle of a war zone?

A city under fire that you cannot escape makes living in even the worst neighborhoods appear desirable. With most of the farmland nearby confiscated for armies, there’s not much fresh local food. There have been long periods of time when no food could make it through, so even if it were a reasonable outing to go to a store and buy food, there wasn’t any to buy. Some weeks what food is available has prices so high that no average person can afford it. Over 40% of people living in Gaza are currently unemployed, and over half of the 1.7 million people who live there are food insecure. It’s hard to get a job with shrapnel flying, bombs dropping, and different factions fighting over who controls your city.

Gaza Urban Gardener, Abu AhmedThe UN has helped some of these stranded folks to start growing their own food with aquaponics. Abu Ahmed is probably the most successful at growing fruit, herbs, and vegetables on his rooftop. The garden didn’t start out being aquaponic, in the beginning the elderly lady of the house planted some flowers up there, and soon a climbing summer squash followed. This inspired Abu to figure out how to grow more food on the safer location from troops above the city. As you can see from the image above we found the article on Aljaheera through, his aquaponic garden was doing awesome. Unlike reports from a handful of others in Gaza who perhaps have less understanding of growing than this refugee farmer from another location under siege.

Of course, it helps if you have uninterrupted access to electricity to run your pumps that supply irrigation to your crops, and oxygen to your fish. Abu has a generator for his system, making it easier for him to succeed where others have failed to grow their own food in Gaza. All that greenery gave the family an escape from the arid, destructive world below on the street too, a place to restore some sanity to live lived in total chaos. And for a while it did provide them with fresh tomatoes, greens, fruits, eggplants, and herbs – enough to be able to eat and not risk getting shot or blown up while trying to shop for groceries.

Things are different now though. Over this past summer the shooting and bombing got so bad that it was not safe to go outside, let alone to the rooftop. When things finally settled down, everything up there was dead, which is sad. But soon all residents of Gaza may have no choice but to leave. The city might very well be evacuated as conditions spiral downward to the point where it will be totally uninhabitable, because now they are almost completely out of water that is safe to drink.

I wish this post had a happier ending, but these are the facts. Aquaponics has helped to make their lives more comfortable, but when you can’t even oxygenate your fish tank, or hand water your plants – when doing so means you’ll probably die trying to grow food, its time to leave anyway. It did get them this far, and remains a testament to just viable a means this is for producing food in the worst situations. If it hadn’t been so treacherous, perhaps Abu would have been able to engineer some solar power to keep things running more smoothly.

“But wait!” you’re thinking, “His garden looks so lush.” Yes it did, in May of 2013. That’s when these photos were taken. Now over 90% of their water is unsafe, and only 75% of the sewage is being treated. It makes you look around even the poorest home, and be thankful for every thing you have, including the ability to grow food by any means.

Source: Aljaheera

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  • late2theparty says:

    Ah.. this is when having ‘engineer’ friends will help. There are quite a few ways to generate automatic power in any situation – it may not be large amounts but there are more than enough ways to get some power. Most people will say “solar panels” and wind power, but those are too easily stolen or seen. Passive solar, human/animal power, small passive reflectors to redirect light inside, even light channels (like a periscope for your plants) that are not very visible all can make such a life easier.

    Yes, it’s all easy to say this when my city isn’t being shelled daily, but when there is a person willing to do all that they can, and this person appeared able to think outside the box, then you can have what others only dream of. Fresnel lenses, solar distillation, and solar steam all can be used to distill water from foul to fresh. I wish the family well and hope others hear or think of these things when needed. {Note if you have a working still and enough stored, fresh water/food = money.

    • Tammy says:

      Hi late…

      Yes, it would help to have friends with the right skills and knowledge, but many wouldn’t have such a person to consult with. Still, we thank you for leaving these suggestions here. Hopefully those who need them most will find them and be able to implement a solution.


The garden played a starring role from spring through fall in the house Amber was raised in. She has decades of experience growing plants from seeds and cuttings in the plot and pots.