Agriculture is a critical sector in Gaza's economy: the UN reports that agriculture accounts for 4.5% of Gaza's GDP and employs 5.8% of its workforce, contributing to income, exports and food security. However, due to Israel's punishing blockade and ongoing violence, political instability and land degradation (from previous conflicts and destruction), many Palestinian farmers struggle to operate.
With its partners, the CJPME Foundation's "Gaza Farm Aid" (GFA) project aims to build the self-reliance of Gaza farmers: a group that is highly vulnerable to economic and social disasters. The GFA will rehabilitate and plant 30 greenhouses and 60 dunums of open land. Approximately 90 farmers - 70 male and 20 female - will be provided all necessary agricultural inputs to return to work and restore their agricultural properties’ productivity. The harvested produce will be purchased by GFA, and will be donated to needy Gaza families. GFA will also promote responsible consumption and production by using intercropping to increase land productivity, and by using drip irrigation to minimize water consumption.
The CJPME Foundation (a registered Canadian charity, number 841493539 RR 0001) and its allies are working with the International Development and Relief Foundation (IDRF) and local partners to deliver this project, provide a lasting impact for Gaza's agricultural sector, and provide food support for tens of thousands in Gaza. Charitable tax receipts for gifts of $20 or more will be issued by the CJPME Foundation.
This project is a humanitarian, lifesaving, and rights-based intervention, which will prevent further erosion of livelihood assets, through providing a coping mechanism to the communities most badly affected by the blockade and poor economic conditions in Gaza. This is a critical issue given agriculture is currently the only productive sector contributing to the reduction of food insecurity among the people of Gaza.
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The Gaza Strip is a 365 km² territory in the southeast Mediterranean containing over 2 million people (50% children and 75% refugees) under the jurisdiction of the Palestinian Authority. The World Bank recently described Gaza’s economy as being in ‘freefall’ with rapidly worsening socio-economic indicators: unemployment is at 55%, more than half of families (57%) live below the poverty line, and 68% are food insecure. The UN has described the situation as a chronic emergency and a protracted human dignity crisis.
Agriculture is one of the most critical sectors for the Palestinian economy, significantly contributing to income, exports, food security and job creation. However, due to the restrictions of the blockade, ongoing violence, political instability and land loss (from previous conflicts and destruction), Palestinian farmers have been unable to meet their families’ most basic daily needs, let alone earn a higher income. Consequently, developing sustainable agriculture in Gaza is essential.
Historically, the agriculture sector has been the largest economic sector in Gaza and plays an important role in the economy. This role, however, has declined over time as the sector was affected by a number of issues including fluctuations of the political environment and the imposition of disruptive and restrictive rules and regulations. Between 1948 and 1967, agriculture contributed more than one-third of Gaza's Gross Domestic Product (GDP), providing 33-40% of employment, and 90% of exports. The contribution to GDP continued declining after the Oslo agreement, reaching 10% in the 1990s when Israeli imposed movement restrictions gradually intensified, and Israel institutionalized a general closure on the occupied territories, adversely impacting the marketing and export of agricultural products. In 2006 a decision was made to introduce a policy of separation between the West Bank and Gaza that turned into an imposed closure and blockade in June 2007. During the period between 2005 and 2015, the contribution of the agriculture sector to Gaza's GDP fluctuated between 5.6% and 8.5%, reaching 3% in 2018, and the agricultural sector's budget remains the least across sectors. In 2018, the agricultural sector’s budget did not exceed 1% of the total public budget, which indicates a serious failure to strengthen the farmers’ steadfastness to achieve an increase in Palestinian production and sovereignty over food. There is a constant decline in the percentage of workers in agricultural activity, whereas in 2010 it was around 14%, that decreased to 6.7% in 2017. This has weakened the agricultural sector and led to the farmers' inability to apply the concept of food sovereignty as part of the right to self-determination and is considered the main cause of poverty, unemployment and food insecurity.
For years, access to land as well as the absence of an open market for produce, including export opportunities, has been a major problem for Gaza farmers due to Israel's ongoing blockade of Gaza. The result was a sharp drop in the prices of many agricultural products, with losses to farmers. Many farmers urgently need to restore their destroyed agricultural production properties and their livelihoods to secure a sustainable income for their families, as well as to create job opportunities for unemployed labourers in the agricultural sector. The Ministry of Agriculture’s priorities include strengthening Palestinian farmers’ steadfastness on their land through strengthening the role of women, especially in rural and marginalized areas. The chronic energy deficit in Gaza has also placed additional pressure on farmers, herders and fishers who are already experiencing an increase in agricultural input costs, at the same time as vegetable and poultry meat market sale prices are decreasing, putting profitability and sustainability at risk.
The proposed project was developed on the success of previous project phases. It takes into consideration some of the lessons learned and is based on the available financial resources. This proposed project aligns the implementation period with the agricultural season, to ensure the maximum yield in terms of quantity and quality. The project period and type of intervention also considered: the need to link the farmers crops with the next season of Ramadan where possible, with Ramadan expected due to begin around the 20th March 2023, in order to market their products through the potential fresh food parcel distribution supported by IDRF/CJPME FOUNDATION. As in the previous phases, this project will continue the provision of coaching and technical support for farmers, providing guidance on which crops are best suited to their soil type and when and how to plant and irrigate their lands and greenhouses most appropriately, to maximise crop quality and quantity and meet market needs.
This project will target 90 farmers. 30 farmers with open land / fields (2 dunums per farmer) + 60 farmers for green houses (1 Greenhouse for 2 farmers) = 90 beneficiary farmers. Greenhouses are more urgently needed during the winter season for some crops to survive the winter and to ensure production in sufficient quantities to meet market needs. This is very important for provision of essential crops availability (i.e. tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchini. As for the open land farming, this is needed as some crops can’t be grown inside a greenhouse (i.e. potatoes, greens/leafy vegetables such as lettuce, spinach, mloukhiyeh, cauliflower, peas, etc. depending on the season). The project investment will contribute to supporting the basic needs of both types of farming to meet local market demand.
 Middle East Monitor. Palestine: agricultural sector loses $204 million due to Israeli offensive against Gaza. Jun 2021. https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20210603-palestine-agricultural-sector-loses-204-million-due-to-israeli-offensive-against-gaza/