The FAO Component of the Consolidated Appeals 2009: West Bank and Gaza Strip

The FAO Component of the Consolidated Appeals 2009: West Bank and Gaza Strip
Nov 2008

Since the outbreak of the second Intifada in September 2000, the West Bank and Gaza Strip (WBGS) has continued to endure severe economic, humanitarian and social consequences. Following the escalation of hostilities in June 2007, the political landscape has evolved, with Hamas seizing control of the Gaza Strip and Fatah governing the West Bank.

The main driver of Palestinian food insecurity is of a political nature. Increases in West Bank checkpoints, frequent closures of the Karni crossing, restricted movement of people and goods, the expansion of settlements and lack of access to key resources are ongoing processes that perpetuate the livelihood crisis in the WBGS.

Soaring food and commodity prices, falling incomes and widespread unemployment are jeopardizing the livelihoods of ordinary Palestinians, leading to debt and food insecurity. Previously self-reliant families are progressively falling into the poverty trap in the absence of job opportunities. Furthermore, those with work are confronted with unadjusted salaries, a degrading economic environment and increasing numbers of dependents to support.

Challenges facing food security and livelihoods

The agriculture sector in the WBGS is a source of sustainable employment, income-generation and food security for many Palestinians and represents the main coping mechanism in rural areas. A joint FAO/WFP/UNRWA Rapid Food Security Survey, in April 2008, indicated that 59 percent of Palestinian households are relying on credit to buy food, while food insecurity affects 38 percent of the population. The combination of decreased incomes and increased food prices has forced poorer households to change their food consumption patterns, shifting to lower quantity and lesser quality of food.

Food security in the WBGS is heavily dependent on food imports with local production covering less than 5 percent of staple cereal and legume consumption. As a result of soaring food and input prices, a regional drought and a late frost in 2008, many poor farmers in the WBGS have incurred severe economic losses and become unable to reinvest in the 2009 agricultural production cycle. Small ruminant herders have already started to reduce their flock sizes in order to generate sufficient income for family survival. Through the denial of permits, extended closures and persisting land confiscations, the local population of the Jordan Valley is isolated from basic services and the already fragile economy is being stifled.

Moreover, economic difficulties leave many women engaged in the cottage industry on the brink of selling their productive assets, thus endangering their livelihoods and the food security of their families. In addition, poor management and operation of agricultural wells in Gaza, which provide both drinking water and crop irrigation, have reduced water availability and further hampered food production. Although an important livelihood asset, fishing has become increasingly rare among Gazans, because of limited access to fishing grounds and the unavailability of fuel and spare parts.

FAO response

FAO’s activities in the WBGS in 2009 will focus on providing a safety net for food-insecure households that can no longer rely on traditional sources of assistance. To this end, project proposals include the distribution of key agricultural inputs, including drought-tolerant seed varieties, organic and chemical fertilizers, animal feed, medicines and veterinary kits. Income generation through backyard food production and cottage industries will also be promoted, specifically aimed to assist female-headed households. With adequate funding, FAO seeks to optimize available water resources through the delivery of water cisterns, irrigation systems and plantlets, the rehabilitation and enlargement of existing wells and the provision of technical expertise to encourage water conservation. Other planned interventions include the training of women on farm management, milk processing and improved hygiene practices.

In collaboration with partners, FAO will continue to bolster coordination among actors in the food security and livelihoods sector through improved information sharing, regular stakeholder consultations, and the institutionalization of food security monitoring systems. This, in turn, will pave the way for evidence-based and decentralized coordination to improve the impact of emergency and rehabilitation activities.

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