Agricultural and Food Security Program
MA’AN’s Agricultural and Food Security Program aims to improve the food security situation of the poorest and most marginalized sectors of the Palestinian society at the family and community level.
Challenges faced by the sector
Despite the traditional basis and importance of agriculture in Palestine, its capacity to make a contribution to the economy and maintain food security is severely constrained. Rapid population growth and demographic expansion combined with political and economic deterioration over the past 43 years have reshaped agricultural systems and posed many constraints and challenges which effect Palestine’s ability to ensure the food security of its people.
The major obstacle to agricultural development as a result of the occupation is the continual confiscation of land. Palestinians are not permitted to work in Area C, which comprises 61% of the West Bank, severely hindering the capacity of agricultural sector. The construction of the Separation Wall has annexed more than 10% of the total area of the West Bank, including some of the best arable land in the West Bank. Many farmers have been prevented from accessing and cultivating their land which now lies behind the wall. More farmers still have had their land confiscated for settlement expansion purposes, to build Israeli only roads in the West Bank, or to create closed military areas. In the process hundreds-of-thousands of olive trees have been uprooted, the biodiversity of many areas has been destroyed and Palestinians have been cut off from water sources. In addition to inadequate land sources, in Gaza, fishermen are prohibited from fishing in the Mediterranean Sea, severely restricting a significant and important food source and income.
In the West Bank and Gaza, farmers have to deal with inadequate access to clean water. In Gaza water is unfit for human consumption. In many areas of the West Bank, especially in area C, farmers have to cope with severe restrictions on water usage due to overuse by Israeli settlements and the bans on building wells and reservoirs. Existing wells are often behind locked fences and can only be used by settlers and others dry up because settlers have dug deeper wells that reroute the Palestinian ones. Untreated sewage from settlements is also a serious problem as it contaminates land and Palestinian water sources.
Furthermore Israeli land closure measures have restricted marketing opportunities, while the dependency on agricultural imports from Israel (especially animal feed) is economically unsustainable. The World Food Program Safety Nets study from July 2008 shows that the OPT is highly vulnerable to global food prices as a result of dependence on imports which constitute 96 % of staple foods, including cereals and pulses.
In addition to the direct restrictions to agricultural practice caused by the occupation, internal expansion of urban areas and the misuse of pesticides have further damaged productivity.
Goals and development objectives of the program
A strong agricultural sector and the ability to sustainably feed the population of Palestine and not rely on imports is an essential objective that must be met for Palestine to become a viable state. MA’AN’s food security programs also aim to combat unemployment and poverty in providing sustainable and long term jobs in agriculture.
In the context of such challenges, MA’AN’s Agricultural and Food Security Program aims to bring about sustainable food security in accordance with MA’AN’s values by focusing on the following areas of importance.
- Protecting land and water resources from the risk of confiscation
- Improving food security
- Providing employment and regular income.
- Contributing to economic productivity and exports
- Environmental protection
MA’AN’s Agricultural and Food Security Program has identified the most pressing needs, resulting in the prioritization of the following objectives and strategies:
Increasing steadfastness and enhancing agriculture by encouraging farmers’ attachment to the land through the rehabilitation of the damaged infrastructure and by offering support to farmers affected by the building of the Separation Wall.
Developing the efficiency and sustainability of agricultural resources by increasing water harvesting through the establishment of ponds and cisterns.
Reclamation and rehabilitation of new lands though sustainable means.
Increasing productivity and enhancing contributions to achieve food security.
Developing agricultural services and extension works for farmers through organic farming and pest control
Advocating and lobbying at international and national levels to support the Palestinian people’s rights in the use of land resources, and advocating in order to prevent legal violations against farmers.
MA'AN works with rural communities to enhance food security using practical measures. These will include the reclamation and rehabilitation of land, the construction of agricultural roads, home gardens, greenhouses, cisterns, irrigation pipes and systems, water storage facilities, stone terraces and fences, the distribution of trees, seedlings and animals, producing and marketing organic extra virgin olive oil, and providing animal husbandry units. Comprehensive training in each of these activities has helped to ensure that food security is effective, efficient, sustainable and environmentally friendly. MA'AN will also work on bringing together relevant stakeholders to develop a food sovereignty policy.
MA’AN also pays special attention to cooperating and coordinating with all stakeholders involved in agriculture and food security including the Ministry of Agriculture in the Palestinian Authority and NGOs to implement projects and agricultural strategies.