Grounded in a family history of farming, Mohammad and his brother invested a cash grant from NEF’s livelihoods project to construct an agricultural poly-tunnel. The tunnel, made from steel and covered in polythene, captures the incoming warmth from the sun and heats the plants and soil inside the structure, extending the valuable growing season.
“In Syria we had agricultural land, we grew wheat and barley seasonally, and had greenhouses, like this, to grow lettuce, cabbages, tomatoes,” Mohammad explained.
Prior to the project, Mohammad, a father of ten, relied on unpredictable day work to get by. This season, with the eager help of his children, the family harvested and sold over one and half metric tons of cucumbers from the mere 225m2 of fertile soil protected by the tunnel.
“I feel happy. I am working for myself and making an independent income,” Mohammad explained, stressing the significance of being self-employed. He added that the project was like watering a plant, “Life has returned to us. Everything has changed. Before, I was sitting at home with nothing to do. Now I have a purpose, I have things to do.”
Based on their initial success, the brothers were awarded an expansion grant and Mohammad participated in an advanced business training course. They have extended the greenhouse and the network of water pipes, and are working towards sustaining an annual rotation of crops. Whilst Mohammad’s children are excited by the prospect of a harvest of sweet strawberries next summer, the brothers are focusing their attention on finding a larger piece of land to lease. Their plan is to purchase more tunnels and return to living on the land they farm, as they did in Syria.