Flowers in the dark: The contribution of rooftop urban agriculture to human well-being in the Ein El-Hilweh Refugee Camp, Lebanon

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Securing the livelihoods of disadvantaged social groups such as refugees is a decisive part of sustainable development globally. In Lebanon, Palestinian and Syrian-Palestinian refugees are marginalized groups facing aggravating hardships in the light of the country's rising economic and political crises. Urban agriculture has become an increasingly popular tool for city residents to counteract economic instability and secure their livelihoods. This study explores the intersection between refugees in protracted displacement, urban agriculture, and sustainable livelihoods by analyzing the livelihood effects of rooftop urban agriculture for Palestinian women in Ein El-Hilweh, Lebanon's largest refugee camp. To this end, we applied a mixed-method approach combining a document analysis and a survey of ten female participants of an urban agricultural project in Ein El-Hilweh Camp, Lebanon. We analyzed data by an adapted Sustainable Livelihoods Framework. Our findings suggest that rooftop urban agriculture as an informal bottom-up strategy that contributes considerably to more sustainable livelihoods of Palestinian women and their families in the refugee camp by enabling them to develop natural and human capital as the basis for increasing their food security while protecting natural resources. Rooftop urban agriculture thus is a low-threshold tool for refugees in protracted displacement that enhances their well-being over the medium term. By providing novel data on the livelihoods of Palestinian urban gardeners in Lebanon, this study closes an empirical gap and offers entry points for further research. If scaled up, the initiative could catalyze social improvement in other protracted refugee situations in the Middle East and elsewhere.
Original languageEnglish
Article number100057
JournalWorld Development Sustainability
Number of pages8
Publication statusPublished - 01.06.2023

Bibliographical note

We would like to thank Dr. Jenny Schmidt for providing indispensable advice, assistance and feedback. We further acknowledge the contributions of the human rights organization Medico International in terms of disclosing information on the agricultural project in Ein El-Hilweh. Here we want to thank Till Küster in particular for sharing information on the history, funding and structure of the project and for
establishing contact with the executing non-governmental organization Nashet. Finally, sincere thanks go to project coordinator Wafaa Issa for giving us valuable insights into her work, for sharing the project reports and most importantly for distributing the research questionnaires to the gardeners and thereby making this research possible