Many areas in Syria have been under siege, others are cut of from agricultural lands because of fighting. Thousands of Syrians are starving. The 15th Garden enables people to produce food in urban areas, in order to establish food sovereignty rather than sending supplies there.
Loukas Koubouris Can you tell me a bit about your background?
Abdallah Al-Shaar I was concerned about the political situation in Syria and I was also participating in the Revolution. I became familiar with this initiative by meeting a group that works with this initiative during my activities, this how I met them. Then I started to work with in order to connect them with other groups, organizations on Syria who were interested in the same field of action. The initiative expanded in seventeen cities in Syria and different European countries.
Loukas Koubouris How 15th garden started in the first place?
Abdallah Al-Shaar The formation of the initiative began in Al-Zabadani. It was an idea that came from Al-Zabadani women and a German farmer welcomed the idea. So he started to collect seeds from other German farmers in order to send them to Syria.
Loukas Koubouris Can you tell me about how 15th garden works?
Abdallah Al-Shaar The 15th garden initiative concerns food sovereign and human independence both politically and socially. We secure organic seeds from European countries and we deliver them in Syrian cities. First we deliver the seeds to neighbor countries like Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan and from there to Syria. We also organize online workshops and meeting with our partners to provide us with technical advices of who to deal with the seeds that they send us. We do fund raising from our supporters to provide our partners outside Syria with fund, basically this funding covers the transportation costs from Europe to Syria.
Loukas Koubouris What's the objective of 15th Garden?
Abdallah Al-Shaar The objective is to raise awareness about food sovereign in Syria. Many cities in Syria are besieged and others are under heavy bombing. So we have to make a point that people don't have to wait for the humanitarian support, the must learn how to deal with the problem themselves by achieving food sovereign. Basically we teach people who to plant their own crop in public space or in their gardens.
Loukas Koubouris What kind of land spaces the initiative uses for plantation?
Abdallah Al-Shaar It depends. Sometimes we plant in the backyards or on terraces and sometimes we use some kind of open public space. The open spaces are parks, schools and empty street places.
Loukas Koubouris What's the situation the cities that 15th garden acts?
Abdallah Al-Shaar Most of the cities are besieged so they don’t have any access to supplies as food. Others are under heavy bombing. As I said before the main act it's not provide people with food because they 're starving. I mean the problem exists but also it's a matter of politics as we believe that people should be independent. In the second part of our «program» we encourage to people to plant their existing seeds from the plants that we already provide them. The goal is that they become fully independent so they don't wait only for the «western charity».
Loukas Koubouris What kind of challenges and difficulties the initiative faces?
Abdallah Al-Shaar Our initiative is first political and then humanitarian. The war is the main difficulty we're facing, there is not enough financial support our ideas and project that we have in mind. Often we are having problems with the importation of the seeds because neighboring countries don’t have sufficient facilitation.