La résilience
Conditional cash assistance to build resilience against water scarcity in the West Bank

Conditional cash assistance to build resilience against water scarcity in the West Bank


Water scarcity affects the majority of farmers and herders in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, significantly impacting efforts to produce crops and raise livestock. The combined effects of drought, falling water tables and Israeli restrictions on the construction and rehabilitation of wells and water sources impede families’ abilities to build resilient and sustainable livelihoods. 

Since 2011, FAO has provided conditional cash assistance to vulnerable farmers and herders in the West Bank for the construction of thousands of water cisterns. Rainwater harvesting and storage using cisterns offers a feasible and cost-effective way to ensure the availability of and access to water for household and agricultural use. Cisterns create a buffer of water storage capacity, allowing households to buy water in greater quantities and at significantly cheaper prices per cubic metre. For every USD 1 invested in household cistern construction, approximately USD 17.5 worth of water is saved. 

With a more reliable and affordable water source, beneficiaries (primarily women) are able to establish backyard gardens, providing fresh produce for household consumption and sale on the local market. The spillover effects of the practice into the wider community are also significant: the construction process provides temporary employment for beneficiaries and local contractors, and contributes to the local economy through the purchase of supplies. 

In order to enhance the sustainability of FAO interventions, beneficiaries have received intensive training on water use optimization and the cleaning and repair of cisterns. If maintained properly, cisterns can last up to 50 years. Annual maintenance requirements are limited – cleaning is required once a year – and repair costs are low (USD 20–30 annually). 

Through the provision of cash assistance for the construction of water cisterns, FAO has strengthened the resilience of thousands of vulnerable families in the West Bank by enabling them to save, collect and reuse water resources using improved storage and climate-smart practices. Building upon previous experiences and achievements in cistern construction – assessed through a European Union-funded pilot project in 2011 – this practice has been replicated across the West Bank under projects funded by Canada, Japan and Spain (2012–2015).