It is a denial of basic human rights and is in contravention of international law, and it amounts to collective punishment. It severely restricts imports and exports, as well as the movement of people and goods into and out of Gaza, as well as access to agricultural land and fishing waters.
In 2014, Gaza’s agricultural sector sustained over USD $500 million in damage as a result of land, air and sea bombardment by Israel’s military forces. Around 24,000 families of farmers, herders and fishermen suffered debilitating losses. During the 51-day conflict, farmers were forced to abandon their crops and animals, while fishermen were prohibited access to the sea, paralyzing related economic activities. Open fields, greenhouses, gardens and orchards were severely damaged and contaminated with unexploded ordnance. Families who lost animals or fishing assets also lost their daily sources of income and nutrition: eggs, meat, dairy and fish. Many still cannot access or afford the basic inputs needed to resume production, such as fodder, seeds, fertilizer and water. Until now, farmers have been unable to recover from this destruction and return to farming their land. Their losses were too great and they had no other means of income.
Historically, the agriculture sector has been the largest economic sector in Gaza. However, this has declined over time as the sector was affected by a number of issues, including the turbulent political environment and the imposition of disruptive and restrictive rules and regulations by Israel. Between 1948 and 1967, agriculture contributed more than one-third of Gaza's Gross Domestic Product (GDP), providing 33-40% of employment and 90% of exports. Recent reports on agriculture of the United Nations’ Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), noted that agriculture accounts for 4.5% of the Gaza Strip’s GDP and employs 5.8% of its workforce. In Gaza, the ongoing chronic energy deficit has also placed additional pressure on farmers, herders, and fishers, who are already experiencing increasing costs of agricultural materials and equipment, at the same time as vegetable and poultry market sale prices decreasing – putting profitability and sustainability at risk.
Farmers urgently need assistance to replace their equipment and materials to restore their destroyed agricultural property and their livelihoods; to secure a sustainable income for their families. This in turn will also create job opportunities for unemployed labourers in the agricultural sector. Welfare Association's team will also facilitate the marketing of the farmers crops by buying them for the Ramadan Fresh Parcels project in 2023 where possible.
All of our projects restoring farmers livelihoods are built on our long experience of working in the agricultural sector together with our local partners. Our latest project aligns the implementation period with the agricultural season, to ensure the maximum yield in terms of quantity and quality. The project’s timing and period also considered the need to link the harvesting of farmers crops with the next season of Ramadan where possible (with Ramadan expected due to begin around the 20th March 2023), in order for the farmers to sell their products to the WA project providing fresh food packages to struggling families during Ramadan. As in the previous phases, this project will continue the provision of coaching and technical support for farmers, providing guidance on which crops are best suited to their soil type, when and how to plant and irrigate their lands & greenhouses most appropriately, to maximise crop quality & quantity, to meet market needs, and ensure environmental best practices.
This project is working with 90 farmers, 30 farmers with open land / fields (2 dunums per farmer) and 60 farmers with greenhouses (each greenhouse is shared by two farmers). Greenhouses are more urgently needed during the winter season for some crops to survive and to ensure production in sufficient quantities to meet market needs. This is very important for the availability of essential crops: i.e. tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchini. The open land farming is needed as some crops cannot be grown inside a greenhouse: i.e. potatoes, greens & leafy vegetables such as lettuce, spinach, and mloukhiyeh, cauliflower, peas, etc. depending on the season. This project will contribute to supporting the basic needs of both types of farming to meet local market demand. At the start of February the land clearance, and greenhouse repair is well underway.
In 2022 we worked with a total of 141 farmers (65 with fields and 108 with greenhouses), clearing, restoring and planting their land and greenhouses. A further 21 farm workers supported the farmers with 944 days of work, which also generated an income for their own families.
Photos from 2022 projects restoring farmers livelihoods in Gaza.
 UN OCHA The Monthly Humanitarian Bulletin. September 2014.
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