The Hope Garden at Shariya Camp came into being during the COVID- 19 pandemic when borders with Syria, Turkey and Iran were closed thus greatly reducing the supply of fresh fruits and vegetables. The pandemic greatly highlighted the urgent need for local food production as a means to ensure food security for our remote and marginalised refugee population. The camp itself was frequently under lockdown, increasing already existing stress and trauma. It was the perfect time to create a community farm garden, acquiring the last unused area of land which we turned into a hub for food production, community connection and more recently, education.
The Hope Garden is an opportunity to offer education in sustainable agriculture, food production and preparation, small business and landscape management as well as other related topics and industries. By offering hands-on experience and partnering with online education platforms, the Hope Garden is a powerful learning hub for children and adults alike.
As the development of the garden has progressed, it has become a meeting place, where students and community members gather to share in the development of this vibrant space. It has become the “safe space” or the “happy place” for many of our student community who often walk in to help garden, weed, pick the vegetables or just to find personal quiet space around the fountain before returning to the claustrophobic tents. We have been told by our students that “the garden is the best kept secret of Shariya Camp, it is heaven on earth.”
Over the course of a year we planted pomegranate trees, oranges and lemons, apricots, peach, pear, persimmon, fig, cherry, chinaberry and mulberry trees. We planted olives and pine trees, vines and berries, aloes, oregano, herbs, lavender, rosemary and thyme. We planted and harvested 2 tons of cucumbers, 1 ton of peppers which were distributed daily to our students, the residents of the camp and frontline workers, namely the local police, security forces and municipal workers.
As the garden matures, we plan to set up beehives, and also to create a handmade line of soaps, thus encouraging both healthy living and small sustainable businesses.