Flowers, vegetables and fruits all deck the Jordanian desert in Zaatari, which is otherwise dry all throughout the year, thanks to the efforts of a group of scientists who have used discarded mattresses for growing them. Through this innovative system using mattresses, the refugees in the Zaatari camp have made remarkable strides in the middle of Jordan, which has been unfertile.
The success comes up as a result of the research by a team led by University of Sheffield chemist Tony Ryan, who is now helping refugees from Syria in Zaatari camp to grow fresh food, despite severe conditions. The camp has about 80.000 refugees and is considered one of the largest camps for people displaced by Syria’s civil war.
Rvan got the idea of growing plants in the mattress after his visit to the region in 2016. During his interaction with the officials of the officials of the United Nations with respect to recycling options, Ryan was shown the piles of mattresses. The United Nations officials have told him that they did not have any clue of what to do with the mattresses, which were made of polyurethane He knew that polymer foams by which polyurethane is made of is a good supporter for plants. He took a sample of the mattress to the Sheffield lab and after several tests returned to Zaatari and launched the Desert Garden project. The project helped people to learn the techniques of hydrophonics.
In Zantari, recycled mattress foam is used as synthetic soil. They use nutrient solutions in place of solid fertilizers that are banned at the camp. In this technique, only a little water is needed. The project has got wide popularity that they are thinking of adapting this in other refugee camps.
Apart from providing good food, the project also helps the people to get out of the monotony that they face.