Sunday, August 19, 2018

Planting a seed for the future


By Marc Henry - August 09, 2018
TAGS:
Section: [Main News] [Features]
Tags: [Qalqylia] [culture] [ecology] [sustainability]

The sun smiles upon Qalqilya - northwest of the West Bank - on this Saturday morning, as it has done so many times before. But something is different. In one of the corners of the schoolyard at Qalqilya Elementary School for Girls, a group of 55 boys and girls are being gathered and hushed upon by their teachers. The show is about to begin.

But this is not a usual theatre play. Actor Fadi Alghoul is met with joy and laughter as he hands out dried fruit to each of the children. They are not only the spectators – they are a part of the play.
 
Along with the Qalqilya Youth Club, the Danish House in Palestine is trying to teach children of Qalqilya about recycling and sustainable eco-farming. And what better ways to do so, than to activate the young minds in a theatre play?
 
“We have a program about recycling and organic farming, so we produce a small interactive show between the actors and the children,” Program Officer at the Danish House Doha Jabr told Palestine Monitor.
 
“They have the ability to participate. It is not a stage, but they have to interact and tell about their experiences with farming.”
 
The ignored city
 
Strangled by the Israeli division wall Qalqilya is completely cut off from its suburbs. But it is not just its suburbs that Qalqilya is cut off from. According to Doha Jabr Qualqilia is not as open as Ramallah but more conservative.
 
“Also, Ramallah is full of projects and have all the ministries and all the offices for foreign organisations. Places like this are lacking these things and are in need,” Jabr said.
 
“Everything is different here. The locals have a lot of fields, and most of the children's parents are farmers. It is not like in Ramallah or Bethlehem, but still sometimes the children forget about farming because they live in a world where everything moves so fast,” Alghoul added.
 
Back to the roots
 
While Fadi Alghoul started the play by handing out dried fruit to the children, the show is not only about teaching the children about buying healthy food. The play also encourages the spectators to plant their own seeds and produce their own groceries.
 
Dressed as an old man, Fadi Alghoul gets the children’s attention. They laugh and smile as Alghoul asks them a range of questions about farming and sustainability. The children gather around Alghoul and his co-actor as they show the children how to plant seeds in an old plastic bottle.
 
For the actor, the play is not only about entertaining the youth but more important to encourage them to engage in organic farming. According to the Alghoul, more and more people eat food polluted by chemicals and not healthy and clean food.
 
“I think it is very important here in Palestine because we still have fields and villages, so we can plant and harvest vegetables and fruit,” Alghoul said.
 
“We want them to get back to the roots and be involved in farming. At the end of the show, we gave them a seed from a watermelon for them to plant and give them the initiative to do something.”
 
At the Danish House in Palestine, the hope is that the children of Qalqilya will welcome the organic farming and perhaps start their own small gardens in their school or at home.
 
Farming and especially organic farming is not a new thing to Palestine. It is rather the traditional way in Palestine. Nonetheless, it is a farming that has been under pressure from the conventional agriculture and thereby the use of dangerous chemicals.
 
“The percentage of cancer around the world, and especially in Palestine, is very high. This is about going back to the old ideas and let the children have their own harvest and plant their own tomatoes and cucumbers,” Program Officer at the Danish House Doha Jabr said and stressed that the recycling issue was just as important.
 
“In Palestine recycling is almost non-existing. This is a notion that we need to draw attention to, and you can do it easier with the children’s mind.”
 
During the play the children had the opportunity to plant their own seed in a plastic bottle. Photo: Marc Henry.
 
 A successful show
 
As the show reaches the end, Alghoul asks all the children to join him on the stage. As the children surround the actor and his partner, Alghoul takes out a handful of watermelon seeds and start to hand each children seat. However, it doesn’t take long until he has to throw them up in the air as the children are getting more and more excited. From the actor's point of view, the show has been a success.
 
“It went well because Qalqilya is an area of farming, and the children already knew a lot about the subject. They were so funny and very active with me. It was a good show,” Alghoul said.
 
And it seems that the children also enjoyed the educational show. Asked what she thought of the event one of the local girls, Rawá, said:
 
“It was nice. I learned about recycling and organic farming. I never knew how to plant vegetables and fruit, but I know now. I now know that I can just use a water bottle and I will go home and try it,” she said before being interrupted by her two friends Afnan and Zaina.
 
“Agriculture is very important in our life,” they said.
 
At the Danish House in Palestine, Doha Jabr is hoping that the event was only the first of many. As so, the hope is to bring more focus to organic farming among children in the West Bank.
 
“We are hoping to establish organic farms around West Bank, maybe in a small school like here, as a continuation of this project. It is a way of changing the way of thinking,” she said.
 
Lead image: Children watch as Fadi Alghoul (Left) dressed as an old man discuss sustainability with his co-actor. Photo: Marc Henry.

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