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The FAO Component of the Consolidated Appeals 2013: West Bank and Gaza Strip

The FAO Component of the Consolidated Appeals 2013: West Bank and Gaza Strip

Dec 2012

The prolonged stalemate in the Middle East peace process, ongoing conflict, destruction of property and restricted access to land, water, goods and services make it increasingly difficult for families in the West Bank and Gaza Strip to provide for themselves. An estimated 1.3 million people are food insecure. With limited employment opportunities and dwindling incomes – coupled with high food prices – this figure could rise further.

Challenges facing food security and livelihoods

Farmers, fishers and herders in the West Bank and Gaza Strip face numerous obstacles to producing food and earning a living, not least of which are restrictions keeping them from their fields, grazing lands and the sea. Many farmers with land near settlements or behind the Separation Barrier either are completely barred from their fields or cannot reach them because of violence, extended closures and land confiscation. In the Gaza Strip, more than one-third of the land that could be used to grow crops is off limits, while fishers are now confined to a very small zone of about 3 nautical miles. Gaza is periodically subjected to military operations, with serious economic and infrastructural consequences.

The past year has witnessed a twofold increase in the destruction of agricultural assets, such as olive and fruit trees and cisterns – and with it, lost income. This has happened mainly in Area C of the West Bank – the only place with enough space to expand Palestinian agricultural and grazing land – and generally to the most vulnerable farming families, including those that have been displaced many times. Threats of violence against fishers are also on the rise. In 2012, there was a marked increase in incidents in which fishers in Gaza were fired at or had their boats and gear confiscated.

In addition to the high cost of production inputs, the scarcity of water makes growing crops and raising livestock very challenging. Many families not served by water networks are forced to buy water at a high cost. As food prices rise and incomes drop, some families are selling productive assets to make ends meet. Others are cutting back on meals, eating poorer quality, less nutritious food or potentially not sending their children, especially girls, to school.

Palestinian women play a significant role in growing crops, raising livestock and processing and selling agricultural products. Many have become increasingly responsible for ensuring their families’ income, food, water and shelter even though employment options for women outside the home are few. When agricultural assets are destroyed or sold it becomes more difficult for women to resume farming activities at a later stage – and more difficult to feed their families.

Together these challenges are chipping away at families’ ability to cope, leaving almost one in three Palestinians food insecure. Agriculture plays a fundamental role in reducing their reliance on imported food, increasing their incomes and helping to keep them on their land – and in turn, building their resilience to shocks.

FAO response

Within the Appeal, FAO seeks to help vulnerable families safeguard their assets, produce more and nutritionally varied food and secure the means to buy the food they need.

With vegetable seeds and fertilizers from FAO, families with limited or no access to land will be able to set up backyard or rooftop gardens. Likewise, the distribution of beehives, animals (ewes, goats, rabbits and chickens) and fish farming materials will contribute to ensuring that families have steady access to fresh, nutritious food. Training in improved backyard farming, cottage industries and marketing will help families take household food production to another level to earn much-needed income.

The provision of inputs, technical support and training to herding families, especially those in
Area C, will help improve livestock production and productivity, increase fodder and supplementary feed production, and ensure the health and hygiene of their animals. Technical assistance will enable dairy producers, particularly women, to process milk and cheese under hygienic conditions, ensuring the availability of quality products for their families and local markets, as well as earnings.

With inputs, such as plastic sheeting, mulch, seeds, fertilizers, tools and insect traps from FAO,  farmers will be able to continue producing food on protected farmland and in open fields and orchards. Likewise, technical support will help farmers manage plant diseases and pests. To counter water shortages, FAO aims to repair or set up cisterns to collect rainwater as well as irrigation networks and grey wastewater treatment units to recycle water. Much of the training –  from managing cottage industries to detecting plant pests to engaging in safe food practices – will be focused on women.

Training farmers and fishers in their legal rights, how best to document violations, how to minimize exposure to risk and how to carry out basic first aid is another important component of the Appeal. With donor funding, farmers and fishers will also receive legal assistance to file claims and pursue compensation.

Legend: FAO funding requests for West Bank and Gaza Strip from 2008 to 2013

As the lead agency for the Agriculture Sector, FAO will continue to work with partners towards a more coordinated, effective and efficient response to food security needs that builds the resilience of the most vulnerable people. This means strengthening partnerships and capacity, and improving information flows and lessons sharing. It also involves providing timely analyses and ensuring evidence-based responses to natural, economic and political shocks that prevent rural and urban families from earning a living.