By: Saad Dagher
Beit Qad farm- MA'AN Center
Exclusive to Environment and Development Horizons:
Many factors have lead to the regression of the Palestinian agricultural sector, and many others lead to the loss of the inherited farming lore which our ancestors developed over hundreds of years. This lore is the result of practical experiences, yet it expressed a state of synchrony between humans and nature. It’s a lore that outpoured from the human’s subconscious to play a harmonious symphony of the fellah’s life with his nature, a life based on simplicity and finding solutions in his near surrounding.
Over the past five decades, that lore was dissolved and much of it vaporized, only to be replaced by assumed “information” that was projected on the fellah and the farmer, sloughing him from the lore built by ancestors with experience and knowhow connected to the place and the surrounding factors. There were times when the fellah was his own master, did not need, nor ask for, help to continue playing the harmonious symphony of life with nature and his subconscious, except from his fellow fellahin within a system of social, communal/collective, and supportive relations.
Thanks to that lore and that concord, the fellah was able to survive and thrive, to the extent of gaining the recognition of his Israeli enemy coming from the developed West. In his book “The Fellah's Farm”, published in 1930, Elazari Volcani (after whom the Volcani Institute is named) writes about the experiments he did in the Agricultural Research Organization, comparing between the western agricultural methods the Jewish settlers brought with them to colonize Palestine, and the methods that the Palestinian fellah developed; only to come to the conclusion: the pre-eminence of the Palestinian fellahi way.
After colonizing the whole of Palestine by the Zionist Movement, the Palestinian agriculture started to be influenced by the incoming alien sciences, thus losing much of its authenticity, and wasting even more of its inherited farming lore. In addition, the fellah lost many of the baladi authenticy ist Movement, the Palestinian agriculture started to be hugely influnced Palestinebaladi crops due to lack of their seeds. A culmination of this finally lead to totally submitting to the alien chemical way of farming, including the usage of transgenic seeds, and later genetically modified ones, along with the intensive use of agrochemicals, like fertilizers and pesticides.
The Palestinian farmer was unwillingly trapped in the eddy. Moreover, he fell under the spell of systematic processes that showed the shiny face of the chemical agriculture, hence making him voluntarily abandon his knowhow, replacing it with recipes capable of stripping him the creativity developed over several generations. The promoters of such methods were armed with ready sayings about the necessity of yield augmentation so as to “end” starvation (while in fact it is a growing starvation, showing the big misguidance by promoters of genetically modified seeds and the accompanying need to use agrochemicals). The promoters also referred to the “necessity” to follow such methods in order to confront the climate change phenomenon - lending a blind eye to the facts that those specific farming methods are responsible of about 50% of the reasons behind the climate change. So how could the methods, that are considered widely accountable for the phenomenon, be the tool to confront the same phenomenon? Such a mock could be accepted by only by a stupid, as Einstein once said: “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them”.
Metamorphosis into a Sponge
It wasn’t only the fellah who fell victim to those tricks, but also everyone else involved in the sector of agriculture. Many were transformed into tools in the hands of those who control the inputs of production and the advanced technologies, all the way to having even experts and several organizations working in the sector promoting technologies for “precision farming”!!! The kind of farming that relies on satellites and GPS. We have metamorphosed into a sponge, absorbing each and every liquid, be it water, oil, petrol, ..., without looking into thing, such as the kinds, importance, and above all the need. The promoters’ justification is the need to control the quantities of irrigation water and pesticides, and to predict infections so as to spray before pests attack. The real and fundamental aim, however, is to deepen the farmer’s dependency and to strip him the freedom he once enjoyed when he was free to make his own decisions regarding what and how and when to plant; the freedom to store his own seeds, producing according to his needs in his garden and with his animals, and by relying on his immediate surroundings.
Having said all this is not to indicate rejection of progress. Pure agro sciences have indeed lead to the widening of knowledge, delivering new discoveries and more information pertaining to soil, plants, insects, as well as identifying needed nutrition elements, and water needs. There are enormous, and continuous, discoveries in the field of natural and bio farming, its methods, and its diverse sub-field. Nonetheless, what is meant by the aforementioned is the need to scrutinize what we want to include in and introduce to the Palestinian farmer and the Palestinian Agriculture. What is even more important is what we Palestinians can offer as epistemic gift to the Levant, the Arab region, and maybe beyond. The one question we need to pose to ourselves: can we offer something distinctive, something by which we can be identified? And by something distinctive I mean something based on our evolving inherited lore; by means of rendering a service to our libertarian goals and aims to be freed from independency.
There have been achievements across our country in the field of organic farming, and in founding the knowledge base, especially in agro-ecology; with echoing impacts beyond our borders. Since the nineties of the 20th century, there have been long years of labour and experimenting; but also persistence of building expanded continual knowledge, one that has been continuous and shall be so in the future. This knowledge and its practical usage on the ground is drawing the attraction of various segments, including youth and women, towards such kinds of farming. It happens despite all the pitiful attempts to raise doubts about the feasibility of such a method of farming - attempts stemming from the lack of knowledge, or conflict of interest, or laziness of the some and their rejection to leave their comfort zone and to set-off to new challenges by trying what they haven’t read in university books and haven’t heard from their professors.
Because of all this, we can claim that our farming message to the outside world needs to carry profound humane meanings; a message that expresses our soul and core, which totally contradicts and opposes that of the Zionist colonization: aiming to impose every possible control and reinforce its presence on the global arena through “technological farming” by holding its knots.
The Zionist colonization has been able to foster this presence through technological achievements in agriculture; achievements that many in the world talk about, and that evoke a state of dazzle among many of us. On the issue of advanced technology, the odds between our enemy and us are colossal, making it unwise to try to compete, especially while we are in a situation that does not allow us to do so. The one possible thing, then, is to be carriers of the technology, not creators of it, which means becoming ourselves promoting tools to Zionist technology with a colonizing dimension that aims to control minds and pockets at the same time. Therefore, it’s an agricultural technology empty of humane dimension.
We can offer a different approach, both on the local level and beyond; an approach with humane dimensions, as well as social, healthy, economic, and ecological. An approach that enhances sustainability, and sets us free from the corporate control over the poor farmers’ pockets, yet it boosts their steadfastness in their fields rendering them capable to continue farming and producing food, furthering them from being pawns in the hands of banks, saving them from losing their land, as is happening in many countries in this world.
Yes we can, because we are advancing in this field with assured steps, and have achieved successes internally and beyond. The proof is the growing numbers in Palestine of those who practice and adopt the concept and the philosophy of ecological farming and its applications on the ground.
We are a people that suffer from a malevolent yet astute occupation that works on suppressing us and proclaiming technological supremacy in all fields, turning us into a human block without self confidence. Once more, wisdom necessitates not to compete with the enemy in a field where it masters all sorts of combat and dodging. On the contrary, we should create a gladiator arena of our own where we tower over the occupation by what we offer to humanity; a battleground where our weapon is “our agricultural message of humane significances and valuehe enemy in a field where it self confidence. Once more, wisdom nessecitates as f some and their rejection and dodgis”.
Translated by: Caro Khoury