Sweden and UNDP support small green business
Fostering food security and increasing water use efficiency through Hydroponic
March 28, 2023
Jordan, Jarash – At the heart of Jerash, the Gaza camp is located five kilometres from the famous Roman ruins of Jerash covering an area of 0.75 square kilometres. From that camp, a 35-year-old Palestinian refugee young man is the founder of “Senera” (Arabic word for hook) a green business that seeks to empower women and youth entrepreneurs lacking access to job opportunities and farming land specifically in marginalized communities. “Senera” provides hydroponics farming solutions for rooftops and greenhouses that are using hydroponics technology in irrigation and small agricultural systems for houses resulting in reducing water use by on average 70% Senera additionally provides technical consultancies in the agricultural field.
Mohammad Syam’s commitment is what pushed him to transform a promise into reality at the Gaza camp. His journey to bring “Senera” to life was long, tough, and an example of resilience. “It wasn’t easy when I first graduated from the university. The inability to work, being a refugee as well as being the sole caregiver for my family were all heavy burdens. And although the road ahead of me was long and bumpy, I was able to get through it so far”, Syam said.
Over three years, Syam was faced by numerous obstacles when entering the marketplace, which is a difficult step for like-minded youth but more difficult for a young refugee. The story of “Senera” started when Mohammad met Abu Abdallah in the Gaza camp who was growing hydroponic crops on his own house rooftop. Both individuals realized the value of their efforts towards potentially addressing this concern, and very early on, started navigating approaches to build hydroponic household system producing food on unexploited surfaces in more than one house in the Gaza camp. Mohammad said, “Senera was more than a small green business for the camp, it was the essence for livelihoods, job opportunities and income generation for a number of households”.
Syam’s commitment to bring “Senera” to life meant he continuously looks for opportunities to grow “Senera” and upscale the work he is doing on the ground. As part of this effort, he applied a call for proposals to receive training and capacity building through UNDP’s SDG climate facility project "Scaling up Water Innovation for Climate Security in Northern Jordan”. Senera became one of the seven startups that were selected to receive a capacity-building program under the project which is implemented by UNDP Jordan and funded by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida) under the regional SDG Climate Facility project: Climate Action for Human Security in the Arab States. The UNDP project aims to develop entrepreneurial water security projects and capacitate innovative SMEs in the water sector to enhance an enabling local environment in the local market and contribute to the development of innovative solutions to realize water security.
Through the UNDP project, “Senera” got the opportunity to implement five pilots of hydroponic systems in the Jarash and Mafraq governorates including a pilot in Jarash Special Needs Caring Center. Additionally, two rooftop hydroponic systems were installed in two households in both Mafraq and Jarash “Gaza Camp”. Mohammad’s idea was mainly to provide additional income to households and contribute to food security and foster sustainability. His objective was to present an alternative income for the household members through this pilot, which could generate an additional income of 100-150$ on a monthly basis. Senera aims to provide a full value chain starting from implementing the pilots, providing technical assistance, and connecting the beneficiaries with market channels to sell their products. Senara has currently eleven functional hydroponic systems including four household rooftops in the Gaza camp which are growing hydroponic crops; it also provides job opportunities for 34 young men and women. Additionally, in an attempt to upscale Senara’s work, the project established a site showcasing all the types of hydroponic systems while also providing technical training for those interested in entering the hydroponic market.
Senera demonstrates the power of entrepreneurship and innovation that address complex local challenges, “It took six months for Senera to be registered officially, and this was a difficult challenge for me and the team”, Seyam adds. Entrepreneurs and Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) represent the future of the economy in Jordan, and a key sector to create employment opportunities that could lead to economic development and national prosperity; they however face several challenges that are preventing them from growth. “Senera” is an example of passion and perseverance and hope for a better future that showcases the resilience of people communities and the environment.
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