Community gardens have become a popular phenomenon in many cities around the world. Each community garden is set up on a piece of land, privately or publicly held, and is gardened collectively by a group of people. It provides fresh produce and plants as well as satisfying labor. Community gardens strengthen community bonds, create recreational and therapeutic opportunities for a community, and promote environmental awareness and community education. Community gardens give urban families an opportunity to discover and enjoy their “green thumbs”, to feel the soil in their hands, and to enjoy the satisfaction of watching the fruits of their labor grow over time.
Netafim employees volunteer in several community garden projects in Israel, as social responsibility projects, which share the goal of their commitment to sustainable development. Specifically, Netafim volunteers promote sustainable water practices, by installing Netafim drip irrigation equipment in community gardens, and then teaching gardeners about drip irrigation and how to correctly and efficiently use the irrigation system.
My Visit to the Beersheba Absorption Center Community Field
I recently visited a very unique community garden in the city of Beersheba, 10 kilometers from Netafim’s plant in Hatzerim. This is actually a “community field” which is on land donated by the city of Beersheba. Recent immigrants to Israel from Ethiopia, who live in the city’s absorption center, where they learn Hebrew, and adjust to their new environment, care for the community gardens under the management of the local NGO Shvuat ha-Adamah / Earth’s Promise. In this community field, each Ethiopian family has been allotted one bed, approximately 20 meters long and one meter wide. On this bed, they grow two rows of crops. Some families grow local vegetables, such as corn and sunflowers; however, most grow herbs and specialty crops that they brought with them from Ethiopia, such as:
- Gomen – resembles a cabbage leaf and is cooked like spinach
- Teff – a traditional cereal
- Zahahene – an Ethiopian variety of basil
On our visit, we saw a woman sitting and crushing some seeds of an indigenous plant into flour, which will be used later for baking.
The community field in Beersheba has numerous benefits:
- It helps the Ethiopian immigrants maintain a connection with their heritage.
- It develops healthy communal, agricultural, and ecological systems that produce nutritious food, and conserve and protect natural resources.
- It provides opportunities for recreation, enrichment, and employment.
Several employees from Netafim’s extrusion department volunteer in the Beersheba absorption center community gardens; they train and supervise the installation and maintenance of the drip irrigation systems donated by Netafim.
It was not easy for our volunteers to convince the Ethiopian immigrants to use drip irrigation. They preferred creating makeshift watering cans, and some of them simply removed the end plugs of the dripperlines that we donated and installed, in order to use them as watering hoses. Over time, they have learned to trust the drip irrigation system. Now, there is a waiting list for available garden beds in the community field!
Our success at this absorption center community field, as well as in other community gardens throughout Israel, has encouraged us to begin implementing drip irrigation systems in community gardens around the world.