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There are currently 80,000 people living in Zaatari, the world’s largest Syrian refugee camp and now Jordan’s fourth largest city.
Scientists at the University of Sheffield are world-leading experts in hydroponics. On discovering a pile of old mattresses in Zaatari, Sheffield scientists set out to see if this material could mimic the high-tech foams they were using in the lab as a synthetic soil to grow food. Soon after, the innovative Desert Garden project began, with both humanitarian and sustainable aims at its core: use waste materials to grow fresh food in the desert for people displaced by war.
The project is being managed by Dr Moaed Al Meselmani, a Syrian refugee, and a soil scientist at the University of Sheffield. To date, over 650 of Zaatari's refugees have been trained in hydroponics. Within three years, a 'train the trainer' model will mean the camp's desert garden will be self-sustaining.
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