By: George Kurzom
Exclusive to Environment and Development Horizons:
The Palestinian official neoliberal policies, entangled and interacting with the Israeli colonial policies, have augmented the consumerist and parasitic structure of the Palestinian economy. Currently the Palestinian society in the West bank and Gaza Strip is producing much less than what it consumes, while there are no real indicators suggesting any possible shrinking in the large gap between production and consumption. This observation becomes evident if we track the decline in the share of the Palestinian GDP compared to the Palestinian gross national product (GNP). It also becomes evident when one takes a quick look at “fresh” and processed food products on display in the Palestinian market. Local “Palestinian” goods (or more accurately national goods produced from local raw materials and resources) account for a very modest share of total food products on display in the local market. Furthermore, many of “local” goods are in fact Israeli goods marketed in the West Bank and Gaza Strip under Palestinian labels.
Prior to the occupation of 1967, the majority of Palestinian rural families used to own fertile lands rich of a wide diversity of green cover and trees, alongside some poultry, sheep or other livestock. This diversified and integrated agricultural production pattern has encouraged useful and complementary relations between the different components of the agricultural production unit, reducing to the minimum the need for external production inputs and the amount of useless waste, as all or most of the farm’s waste or outputs have been recycled within the same farm.
the Palestinian rural population, in their self-reliant traditional farming practices, have used crop residues to feed their animals and used animals’ manure to fertilize their fields. They used to prepare the compost from a mixture of manure and other organic waste. Herders, in agreement with farmers, used to herd their livestock in fields that have been harvested, thus allowing to fertilize the soil. In addition, a common practice was the use of crop rotation and interdependent integration within the same farm, especially when it is directly adjacent to the house. Agricultural diversity has also extended to include local climates, soil types and the different crops in an interconnected and integrated framework, significantly reducing the possibility of loss and providing the farmers with secured income and food security.
Possibly the essential elements of organic farming may have still been present and evident in agricultural lands in some areas of the West bank and Gaza Strip. Such lands are characterized by natural farming practices and traditions, such as a protective vegetation cover, husbandry of livestock and poultry, crop rotation, balanced natural fertilization, companion and integrated planting, and the use of certain natural preparations in pest control. These elements have maintained a soil rich of nutrients and organic matter over the generations.
Contrary to the Palestinian chemical farming, the products of which fail to compete in external markets that are overwhelmed by “better quality” and cheaper products, the Palestinian local farming has an important competitive advantage, if such agricultural pattern is enriched and developed into an organic-ecological farming pattern based on local potential resources and the rich natural-organic agricultural heritage. In any case, if agricultural export is so necessary, as many Palestinian economists and politicians claim, this should be sought only after meeting all local food needs from the local production of a society living under the occupation. This resembles a key form of economic and political resistance against a colonial occupation that aims to control the lives of Palestinians and decide when they are fed and when they are starving. Only then, an export-oriented agriculture can be built on the basis of diversified production (diversity reduces the risk) and on growing clean and healthy organic products which are increasingly on demand in the global markets.
A major factor that makes the current Palestinian agricultural production vulnerable to shocks lies in its lack of planning within a framework of a resilient and resistant economy in the face of the Israeli policies seeking to disintegrate the Palestinian economy and market. Hence this production is not immune and is very sensitive and vulnerable to external pressures, putting its future existence at risk.