By: Firas Al-Taweel
Organic farming characterized by diversity, integrity and self-sufficiency
Exclusive to Environment and Development Horizons (Afaq magazine):
At every crisis hitting the world, debates heighten regarding the governments’ and communities’ means to deal with the crises, especially in cases of epidemics. The issue discussed here is, of course, the COVID-19 pandemic, which brought the world to still. Palestine is no exception, as the debate soar on how to deal with the pandemic and its consequence of paralyzing all walks of life. Being under occupation, the recommendation has long been to adopt the resistant economy and re-establish it as a strategy, rather than as a haven in times of crisis. Over the past two decades, Palestinians’ way of living has changed from production to consumption, creating a fragile economy; one that made it even more difficult to cope with crises.
Economic Expert: Local Agriculture and Industry Must Be Revived
In a region constantly exposed to crises, a revaluation of two important sectors must happen: the local agriculture and industry; in order to break free from Israeli domination, to get exposed to the wider world, to increase local levies, and to increase people's dependence on their productions. That is the economic expert Dr. Naser Abdelkarim’s point of view, as he emphasizes the importance of fostering local farming; saying that “in order to achieve the desired benefit, this should be done by design, rather than left for improvisation”. In Parallel, another revaluation must take place: traditional Palestinian professions, which are about to go extinct, must be supported in order to create more job opportunities and increase the local production, instead of semi-absolute dependence on imports. Abdul Kareem, who is a professor of economics at the Arab American University, advocates for domestic agriculture which he considers to be an inexpensive national duty. “Any person who has even five square meters should plant it, because it will help suffice a portion of their needs,” he explains. Alongside domestic agriculture, Abdul Kareem thinks that individuals must save, even if only a fraction of their income, so that in times of crisis, they find some sort of a haven.
Dagher: Agriculture is a strategic choice and not just a sanctuary in times of crisis
Meeting him on his own land in Mazare’ al-Nubani village in the eastern Bani Zaid area, northeast of Ramallah, the agricultural engineer and environmental agricultural expert at Afaq magazine, Saad Dahger, spoke about means to better appreciate the land and agriculture as safe havens in the face of any crises threatening Palestinian lives. It is not possible, according to Dagher, to face any crisis or emergency without securing a substantial part of the needs from being self-sufficient. This is done by primarily depending on local sources to avoid setbacks in the production cycle caused by relying on imports from abroad. Dahger deems the coronavirus crisis to be good evidence as the whole world became paralyzed and the flow of the goods is no longer easy. Dahger discusses several points that can revaluate land and agriculture.
“We are in need of rethinking our agricultural pattern and of revaluating the small holdings. During the last 20 years, the focus was on large holdings which provide for 25% of world’s food, while the rest came from small holdings (farmland of area less than 10 dunums). In the Palestinian Territory, small holdings make up to 83% of the land ownerships, thus potentially the basis for resilience and job creation for their owners or tenants, at least providing the individual households with part of their needs", explains Dagher.
He also confirms that the Palestinian Authority lacks emergency resilience strategy, especially in cities. During the ongoing crisis, food supply and produce coming from the countryside could have been stronger if it wasn’t sidelined in the past decades, says Dagher. He points out that nowadays, the city had become the source of food supply for the countryside, something he thinks created a disruption in the system.
Dagher, locally known an advocate farmer of ecological farming, criticizes transforming every piece of land in the city into a piece of cement, when it could have been a source of food. Agricultural activities in Palestinian cities are restricted to ornamental plants instead of supporting food production.
Dagher owns a piece of land in his village, which he calls The Humanistic Farm, to where he invites those interested to learn the principles of ecological farming. He continues to advocate for adopting a strategic way of thinking, one that focuses on the city as an important part of food domestic food production.
The outbreak of COVID-19 resulted in the return of people in rural areas to their lands to cultivate. That is one good aspect of the crisis. However, agriculture should not be only a refuge in times of crisis, but a strategic issue, with rural areas as an important key player in it.
Translated by: Carol Khoury