Learn about the background to our work in Palestine here, or follow the links for information about sustainable aquaculture and aquaponics.
About the West Bank
The rural areas of the West Bank are home to approximately 54% of the West Bank population (WFP, 2006), and these people are heavily reliant on some form of agriculture as their main or only form of income and subsistence, with as much as 80% of agricultural production being for domestic consumption (ARIJ, 2007).Nevertheless, with only 20% of agricultural produce destined for direct sale, the agricultural sector still contributes about 10% to the GDP of the Occupied Palestinian Territories (PCBS 2005) and is one of the most robust and consistent sources of economic growth in the OPT (World Bank, 2006).
Unfortunately the whole of the OPT is suffering from a wide range of environmental problems, many of which are exacerbated, if not caused directly, by the ongoing occupation of the area by Israel. These problems, coupled with a lack of suitable infrastructure and development, have an immediately tangible impact on agricultural capability, and thus the well-being of the Palestinian population.
Two of the biggest problems facing the Palestinian agricultural sector are water availability and space available for cultivation. Palestinians have been denied access to the Jordan River and its water since the start of the occupation in 1967, and although the West Bank sits on top of (and is the recharge area for) the mountain aquifer, 80% of the water in this resource is utilized by Israel (Viladomat, 2008). Palestinian abstraction is strictly controlled, and as a consequence the only way that Palestinians can meet their water needs is to buy water back from the Israeli water company Mekorot (for example, this accounted for 39% of Palestinian water consumption in 2005 (PWA 2005)). The current water situation was recently highlighted in the UK media – the BBC, and Macintyre and Hider writing for the Independent and Times newspapers respectively.
Of the 5661km2 total area of the West Bank, about 2880km2 (51%) can be classed as agricultural land (ARIJ, 2007). However approximately 3304km2 (58%) of the total area of the West Bank has become inaccessible to Palestinians as a result of various strategies imposed by Israel; the “separation wall” isolating roughly 555km2 on the west, a further 1664km2 effectively lost in the Jordan Valley and eastern slopes through access controls and military zones, and finally 1085km2 classified as “Area C” (under full Israeli control). The end result is that Palestinian farmers only have proper access to about 37% of their agricultural lands (ARIJ, 2007).
Due to the importance of the agricultural sector in the OPT, many local and international organisations currently active in Palestine are promoting and developing novel agricultural strategies both to enhance the variety and yield of crops grown, and to enhance the production calendar as a way to mitigate the effects of the constraints faced by this sector. Bustan Qaraaqa, our main partner, is one such project; a model permaculture farm founded in May 2008 by a group of British ecologists. Bustan Qaraaqa’s aim is to: “propagate a grassroots environmental movement in the Palestinian Territories to address the problems of food insecurity and environmental degradation that threaten the well-being of the population”.
For more information on the projects we are conducting in Palestine, please click here.
ARIJ (Applied Research Institute – Jerusalem). 2007. Status of the environment in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Bethlehem, ARIJ.
BBC. 2009. Report: Palestinians Denied Water. 27 October 2009
Hider, J. 2009. World Agenda: Palestinians suffer under Israeli water torture. The Times newspaper. 27 October 2009
Macintyre, D. 2009. Israel accused of denying Palestinians access to water. The Independent newspaper, 27 October 2009.
Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS), 2005. Statistical Abstract of Palestine No. 6. PCBS, Ramallah.
Palestinian Water Authority (PWA.), 2005. Quantities of Water Supply in the West Bank Governerates. PWA, Ramallah
World Bank. (WB), 2006. West Bank and Gaza update: A quarterly publication of the West bank and Gaza Office, September 2006
World Food Programme (WFP), 2006. “Vulnerability Analysis and Mapping” Vulnerability Analysis and Mapping Report 5, April 2006.
Viladomat, 2009. Access to water is a right. To what extent are the Palestinian Authority and the Israeli State accountable in denying Palestinians their right to water? B.A. dissertation, University of Middlesex, London