Young Jordanians innovate to tackle food insecurity |

Jordanians face many intersecting challenges, including slow economic growth, high youth unemployment, water scarcity and rising costs of living.

In Jordan, 63 percent of the population is under 30 years of age. They are one of the youngest populations in the world, and the participation and mobilization of youth is critical to finding solutions to food insecurity.

That’s why the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the World Food Program (WFP) launched the innovative Youth in Food Security program, in which a group of young Jordanians aged 18 to 26 presented a wide range of ideas, from solving the problem of solid waste to processing fruit and vegetable peels.

As part of the project, participants were trained on the consequences of food insecurity, opportunities and challenges directly related to food security, the role of technology in shaping the future of food, and strategies to change the traditional food chain.

UNICEF/ Nadia Bseiso

Aya Kraik, WFP/UNICEF youth innovation project participant in Jordan.

Soil rebirth

Aya Kreik, an architecture student in Amman, is one such young innovator. Ms. Craik and her team have been able to turn farm waste into nutrient-rich organic fertilizer, revitalize the soil, and encourage farmers to avoid using chemical fertilizers.

“My innovative idea is to increase plant immunity to diseases and help the soil retain water in a greater proportion, which reduces the amount of irrigation water needed. The modern method of recycling waste and does not produce greenhouse gases. she explains. “We started our project at the beginning of the pandemic. During self-isolation, we figured out how to become self-sufficient when it comes to food.”

“The capital of Jordan, Amman, is a very crowded city and there is no free space for farming,” she adds. “In addition, not all people are interested in healthy and organic food due to ignorance and high prices. Therefore, we were determined to raise awareness of the importance and benefits of organic food.”

“I am proud of what I have achieved today. We are about to open the first female-led multi-production farm in Jordan,” says Ms. Craik. “We young people need to think outside the box and come up with new ideas related to environmental sustainability.”

Alaa Al-Hijazin and Nurhan Al-Gharabli, participants in the UNICEF/WFP Youth Innovation Project in Jordan.

UNICEF/ Nadia Bseiso

Alaa Al-Hijazin and Nurhan Al-Gharabli, participants in the UNICEF/WFP Youth Innovation Project in Jordan.

self-feeding plants

Banking and finance graduate Alaa Al-Hijazin and business intelligence student Nurkhan Al-Gharabli have launched a startup that produces self-watering and nourishing plants using a new type of hydrogel composed of self-absorbing polymers that can convert moisture in the air into pure water.

“Our goal is not to make money,” says Alaa, “but to make an impact and change people’s lives. Climate change has a direct impact on food security, the air we breathe and the water we drink. We all need to take action.”

“Our next step is to bring this idea to life. And we are considering further exploring environmental enterprises. Our environment is a great resource and we can use it sustainably,” she adds.

Alaa Talji, WFP/UNICEF youth innovation project participant in Jordan.

UNICEF/ Nadia Bseiso

Alaa Talji, WFP/UNICEF youth innovation project participant in Jordan.

From peel to polymer

Agricultural engineer Alaa Talji took part in the training on innovation. Her project involves processing the skins of fruits and vegetables to produce a chemical polymer that removes 99 percent of heavy metals from water.

“I am an agricultural engineer specializing in water treatment. The idea came to me in my second year at university. I took a course called “Environmental Chemical Pollutants”, which introduced us to the dangers that pollutants pose to our health, and another course called “Drinking Water Purification”, where our professor went on to tell us that water containing heavy metals, can not be used for drinking.

So I thought about the many sources of water that we unfortunately can’t use and started working on a chemical polymer that is organic and safe,” says Ms. Talji.

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