My name is Eid Syam. I'm a strawberry farmer from Gaza city and I’m also an agricultural engineer.
In 2013 I planted some potatoes. When I started my idea was to build something new, something that could compete in the market and reduce the quantity of imported goods. I thought about potato chips, so I started my work in the potato business.
When the war started I was planning to market chips during Eid when the demand is usually high. But I lost that opportunity. First, the workers and I stopped working, then the factory got bombed. The land was bulldozed and the stored product rotted. The period after the war was the worst I have experienced. During the war everybody was trying to survive, but after the war everyone; including myself; started to wonder how we could rebuild ourselves again.
I spent all the money I had. I lost everything after the war. I thought, how could I continue in this life? How can I cover my loans? How can I secure my children's future? It was like a rock was thrown at me.
I thought of my kids, my family and the workers who worked for me. Then I had an idea. After the war I found that working in only one field wouldn’t work. So I started to diversify- we planted strawberries.
I planted strawberries because it’s an export crop. When I came back to work in strawberries, I felt the situation gradually getting better. I slowly started to generate an income again. We started to hire workers and I started to cover my kids’ expenses. This job gave us power and helped us rise again. But it was not easy.
Now, we have revenues from many areas. I have eight workers, four of them are men and four are women. We export the strawberries to Europe and we also sell here in the local market.
I'm afraid of the future because things are not clear in Gaza due to the blockade and lack of job opportunities. The workers here have families, and I worry about them as I do of mine. They do not have opportunities in the labour market. If I can’t cover my loans I won’t be able to pay them their salaries. All these things make me worry. It's not easy.
The electricity problem is the biggest problem in Gaza. When the power is cut off from home the water is also cut off, and my children can’t study. We can’t stay at home when the weather is hot, and in the wintertime, the cold weather is difficult to bear.
It's so difficult when you build something and then it collapses just because electricity isn’t available. It's so hard when you establish a new idea and it is the only source of income, and then you are not able to complete your journey.
During the war the future was almost non-existent, there was no future. We were not thinking of our future, we were just thinking of how to survive. We live to be happy, but after the war happiness didn’t exist.
Then we came back to life- from nothing. I felt like I could fly out of joy when we started producing again and when we started receiving profits.
But things are reversing and we are worried. We are really scared. We fear that the crisis and problems will be exacerbated. When we started working here we had border crossings to export through, and we were able to distribute within the local market. But now people here don’t have money, the crossings are closed, and the power is off.