Despite constraints, FAO helping Gaza farmers
Projects target herders, fishers, horticulture
21 February 2008, Rome – Despite restrictions which make it hard to import essential inputs, FAO is helping restore agricultural production and improve farmers’ livelihoods in the Gaza Strip through a series of emergency projects.
Eighty percent of Gaza’s population is currently dependent on food aid and locally-grown produce is a vital source of fresh food.
FAO currently has 14 projects running in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, with the bulk of activities (85 percent) involving the West Bank. But according to experts the most serious area of humanitarian concern is Gaza, where agriculture and fisheries have been badly hit by the lack of inputs, constraints on farm exports and restrictions on fishing areas.
The lower volume of assistance going to Gaza largely stems from the fact that getting international goods and equipment into the area is almost impossible.
Governments and organizations funding the projects – to the tune of some US$10 million – include Italy, Spain, Japan, Norway, the European Commission and the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Through the Inter-Agency Consolidated Appeal Process, FAO has requested an additional US$7.3 million for 2008 for the restoration of agricultural capacity and livelihood improvements for farmers, livestock rearers and fishers, for improved food security assessments and monitoring, and for strengthened coordination of interventions in the agriculture sector.
National FAO staff work from the UNSCO compound in Gaza City and in spite of the constraints are helping to restore agricultural production to the extent possible. Some agricultural inputs can be purchased locally. But internationally-procured items are much harder to import, such as plastic sheeting for greenhouses which is currently awaiting clearance by Israeli authorities.
FAO Emergency Operations Senior Planning Officer Suzanne Raswant, who visited Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza city last month, said she was “impressed at the energy and commitment of the FAO Gaza team which is working hard to deliver services and assistance under very difficult conditions.”
Production, livelihood improvements
The projects are aimed at boosting agricultural production capacity and securing livelihood improvements for farmers, shepherds, small ruminant rearers and fishers. Specific initiatives include horticulture and greenhouse and irrigation rehabilitation. Training is important in all projects including those targeting ruminant herders and women involved in food processing.
FAO is also implementing a small avian influenza programme to help bolster local capacity to detect and respond to AI outbreaks. Field staff are being trained in disease surveillance, outbreak investigations, laboratory diagnostics and biosecurity and a disease surveillance laboratory located in Gaza City has been provided with essential testing equipment.
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