“Hydroponic agriculture is a therapeutic activity for me and for the children”.

Ms. Nijme Kabaha is a special education teacher, and a mother of four. She has a bachelor’s degree in plastic arts including drawing and sculpture, and special education. She taught […]

Ms. Nijme Kabaha is a special education teacher, and a mother of four. She has a bachelor’s degree in plastic arts including drawing and sculpture, and special education. She taught art and special education to Bedouin children in the Negev for 9 years, and 15 years ago was offered to be a special education teacher in a kindergarten in her home village, Barta’a, the area known as the Triangle. She has since worked for 10 years in her private therapeutic kindergarten for children with language disabilities in Barta’a.

“Since I was not a kindergarten teacher in my training, I took a two-years course at the Dagan Center in the Bar Ilan University, teaching children mathematics, science and technology. A year ago, I got a certificate of a certified consultant for practical and sustainable ecology at the Karkur Holistic College. We were the first class to study the subject. It is most important to invest in early childhood, and see the results over time. All this background allowed me to focus on early childhood science education and exposure to nature, and I spread my wings. Kindergarten work is non-stop fun because you see the effect of your work right away. The children start from a blank page, and as they grow up they fit in well into the regular education system and even excel compared to other children. This is how I change their destiny and give them a future. Also, at home I encourage a lifestyle integrated with awareness to sustainability and a connection to nature.

“I learned about MAAN’s project through an internet search on sustainability, environment and consumer culture. I found information about MAAN ‘s hydroponic project on Facebook. I waited on a waiting list for a whole year until the hydroponic course opened. There are hydroponic courses online, but they are only a two-hour workshop, and I felt that was not thorough enough. MAAN’s course was really worth it. It had theoretical as well as practical sessions. I found the project I joined very powerful and successful in all aspects. The project empowers women, allows them to grow vegetables with a minimum of resources, one does not need land, does not waste water, and does not have to bend over and dig in the ground. The children follow and see the plants grow day by day, they grow much faster compared to planting in soil. We have a group comparing hydroponic cultivation with soil cultivation, and are aware of the gap in time, quality and taste.

“The pupils waited eagerly for the system to arrive. There was a layoff because of the pandemic. At the end of September 2020, we finally built the system, and the beauty is that we built it with our own hands. The children dragged pipes and observed how to build them, and there was a huge enthusiasm around it. The children’s parents were partners too and helped us in the first stages. This added another aspect of bonding. We experimented with growing all types of winter vegetables, and followed what was more successful and what was less with all the pupils. All other teachers helped as well.

“I use the application invented by entrepreneurs from “Hydroponic Network” who work with us in order to test their product. We write down the names of all the types of vegetables we plant, and even the kids have learned how to measure the acidity and salinity level. I am sure that this experience will remain vivid with children for a lifetime, and they will stay connected to plants and nature even as they grow up. We made a nursery where we germinate from the seedlings and they follow the whole process. Some of them started planting vegetables at home as well, even if not hydroponic in the meantime. Parents became interested in the subject, and would like to take the course. Everyone who enters the garden is interested and enthusiastic, and I explain to them about the process, and about cooperation with MAAN. The children pick lettuce and vegetable leaves every day and eat them during their meal break in the garden. They will not lose even one day of picking, and sometimes I allow them to take home the harvested crop. There is no bigger magic than taking a broccoli or lettuce home.  I think that Hydroponic agriculture is a therapeutic activity for me and for the children.

“In our Grower’s group, at MAAN we reached the point where we started selling our products. We worked on pricing. We visited a vegetable local store and then compared with the vegetable stores in the market. Finally, we found a restaurant manager who was very interested in our products, especially the lettuce. The first time I took the harvest to the restaurant some kids and parents joined me, and you have never seen such joyful faces. There is also a very good collaboration between the group of growers. We have a WhatsApp group where we ask and answer questions that arise. We look for good and inexpensive seedlings jointly, and talk about division of labor between growers who can commit to sell. We have developed real friendships in the group.

“What am I planning? I have the largest system, 180 seedlings, and I plan to double the size along the entire fence, to 360 seedlings. I look forward to building a hydroponic system at home, my children really nag me. On holidays and vacations, I constantly go to the garden to keep track of the values ​​and they go with me and help me clean the roots. It’s an ongoing affair, and I feel it’s a kind of therapy, there’s no greater fun than that. I am the head of the high school parent committee, I proposed to the principal to set up a hydroponic system, it was delayed because of the lockdowns, and I will raise it again.

“I have a cousin who lives in Germany, a high school counselor and a university lecturer. I sent her pictures of the project, and she showed it to colleagues at school, and they were very interested in it. Last week I sent them a video with an explanation, and in two weeks we will have a zoom meeting and my cousin will translate me. It is the first time they are exposed to such a thing. 

אודות Michal Schwarz