50% of vegetable farmers in the West Bank have been prevented from accessing their land at least once since the war.
06 February, 2024
A new study by International Land Coalition member Palestinian Farmers’ Union reveals the shocking effects Israeli aggression in Gaza is having on land rights, food, and economic security in the West Bank. According to it, 50% of vegetable farmers in the West Bank have been prevented from accessing their land at least once, (as a result, for example, of intimidation, threats, and checkpoints), 24% have been prevented from practising agricultural activities, 17% have experienced direct attacks on their properties resulting in the destruction of crops, irrigation systems, energy generators, and greenhouses, and 16% have survived physical attacks since the beginning of Israel’s war on Gaza.
The study surveyed 200 farmers across the West Bank, conducted in-depth interviews, and a literature review of reports from agricultural institutions active in the region, including from the Palestinian Farmers’ Union, the Land Research Center, and Agricultural Relief.
“Their [Israel’s] aim is to take the land from farmers. They want to make our life difficult and ensure agricultural production loss, which will force us to leave", says Abbas Melhem, Executive Director of the Palestinian Farmers Union.
“This is one of the tools the occupation is using to make the life of people on their land impossible. Our role as a union is to support the resilience of these farmers by providing them with the minimum resources and requirements they need to stay on their land and face these challenges," Melhem reaffirms.
The study finds that since the onset of the war, the obstacles farmers have been facing will have unprecedented ramifications on economic livelihoods and food security in the area. The Palestinian Ministry of Agriculture estimates that 3,400 Ha of agricultural land have been damaged since the war began, contributing to a 25% loss of olive oil production, the most important agricultural export for Palestine.
Hasan al Ashqar, the General Director of the Planning and Policies Department at Palestine’s Ministry of Agriculture highlighted “famine” levels of food insecurity in Gaza while warning about a similar crisis in the West Bank if nothing changes soon.
“I think people will start to lose their food resources and to starve also in the West Bank,” he says, “we have never faced such [agricultural] destruction ever.”
The Ministry plans to support farmers’ ability to continue practising agriculture by providing animal fodder while grazing is limited.
80% of farmers surveyed in the Palestinian Farmers’ Union’s study reported income decreases as a direct result of the conflict. Given that the West Bank has been entirely self-sufficient in vegetables, eggs, and olive oil and 87% sufficient in many dairy products, these disruptions will undoubtedly further impact food security in a region already suffering from the impacts of increased unemployment due to the war.
Al Ashqar further cites conflict-induced unemployment, rising prices of local agricultural production and difficulty in accessing agricultural inputs such as fertilisers and irrigation systems - traditionally imported from abroad as the principal factors undermining agricultural stability in the West Bank.
“We cannot ignore the rampant escalation of violence on the West Bank especially as it relates to the blatant denial of farmers’ land rights and corresponding turmoil in Palestine’s agricultural economy,” says Mike Taylor, the International Land Coalition’s Secretariat Director.
“It is both the fruit of a long history of suffocating occupation and points to systematic attempts to uproot Palestinians from both the West Bank and Gaza. We call for an immediate and permanent ceasefire. ”