Palestine

This country item is part of the First Mediterranean CSA Mapping report generated in April 2016.

Native Name(s) for CSA: Sharaka (Partnership).plot of land

In Palestine, the first CSA was organized in 2000, when 19 families met and decided to contact a farmer and started to buy direct from him. The second one started in 2007 and was named “Sharaka“.

From Sharaka, a new idea developed to establish a not-for-profit company to facilitate the transport of poor farmers’ produce, initially to the city of Ramallah.

The third CSA was established recently this year (2016). The approximate numbers of eaters in these groups totals around 250-300 people.

Parallel to these CSAs, there is work in progress to create a local seed library to preserve local seeds.

Early 2016, a first dissemination meeting was organized with Palestinian ecologists, who agreed to establish CSAs in different cities.

There is no CSA umbrella organization for now, but the recently established Palestine Eco-Entrepreneur Network could serve as a coordinating body.

National Context

The total area of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip of Palestine is 6,222 km2 and the total population (mid 2014) was about 4.55 million, 2.31 million males and 2.24 million females. The Palestinian Population in the Gaza Strip is younger than the West Bank Population.

The percentage of individuals under 15 made up 39.7% of the total population as of mid 2014 (37.6% in the West Bank and 43.2% in the Gaza Strip). The elderly population aged (65 years and over) made up only 2.9% of the total population of which 3.2% in the West Bank and 2.4% in the Gaza Strip in mid 2014.

The population density in Palestine is among the highest in the world, with up to 756 persons/km2 average. In the Gaza Strip, it is 4,822 persons/km2.

The head of one in every ten households is a woman. The size of female-headed households was relatively low, with an average size of 2.8 persons, compared with 5.7 persons for male-headed households. Female participation rate in the labour force is very low compared with males. Unemployment is about 26.2% nation wide, and stands at 18.2% in the West Bank and 40.8% in the Gaza Strip. Unemployment rates reach 36.5% among females compared to 23.3% among males.

The results of the Palestinian Expenditure and Consumption Survey of 2016 reveal that the major share of cash expenditure was on food: one third of total expenditure is on food.

The same data revealed that 12.9% of the individuals in Palestine suffer from extreme poverty: 7.8% in the West Bank, and 21.1% in the Gaza Strip.

The Interim Agreements between Israel and the PLO divided the West Bank into three categories: Area A, currently comprising about 18% of the land in the West Bank, which includes all the Palestinian cities and most of the Palestinian population of the West Bank. Area B comprises approximately 22% of the West Bank and encompasses large rural areas; Israel retained security control of the area and transferred control of civil matters to the Palestinian Authority (PA). Area C covers 60% of the West Bank (about 330,000 hectares); Israel has retained almost complete control of this area, including security matters and all land-related civil matters, including land allocation, planning and construction, and infrastructure.

The division into areas should have been temporary and was meant to enable an incremental transfer of authority to the Palestinian Authority. It was not designed to address the needs of long-term demographic growth. Yet this “temporary” arrangement has remained in force for nearly twenty years.

The precise number of Palestinians in Area C is unknown. The Israeli NGO Bimkom estimates the population at 200,000, whereas according to an extensive survey by UNOCHA [UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs] there would appear to be 300,000 Palestinian residents in Area C. According to UN food aid agencies, these communities face a high degree of food insecurity – 34% after receiving aid – as compared to 17% in Areas A and B.

Agricultural information

Agriculture is an important cultural tradition vital to the economy of the West Bank and Gaza Strip of Palestine. Farming families have been a part of Palestinian life for thousands of years. They not only provide communities with food and jobs, they are a source of pride and a means of self-sufficiency. From drier and drier seasons to ever-changing political obstacles (both physical and bureaucratic), farming families of the West Bank and Gaza face a whole array of major challenges to their way of life and their livelihoods, but they respond every day with resilience and creativity.

Agriculture in the West Bank accounts for 5 per cent of the GDP and employs 12 per cent of the labour force. The separation wall running through the West Bank isolates thousands of families from their land, threatening their food security and the already fragile economy. Nearly one fifth of West Bank agricultural land is inaccessible. West Bank farmers face challenges not only in the realm of production, but also in marketing. Restrictions on movement and delays at checkpoints make it difficult for goods to reach the markets.

Agriculture in Gaza has also been hit hard by the blockade. A total of 46 per cent of agricultural land in Gaza is inaccessible or unusable due to the destruction of land during “Operation Cast Lead” and by the “security buffer zone” along Gaza’s Northern and Eastern borders with Israel. The labour force employed in farming dropped from 12.7 per cent in 2007 to 7.1 per cent in 2009.

History and Characteristics of CSA or/and Ecological, Solidarity -based Partnerships in the country

The first attempt to start CSA was in Ramallah City, when 19 consumers contacted a farmer and conducted the first meeting with him. The farmer was producing milk, cheese and vegetables. This attempt was stopped, because the farmer could not cover the consumers’ needs and only 3 families continued with him. In 2007, a group of consumers established a new group, called “Sharaka”, which means partnership, in order to support farmers in marketing their produce. Sharaka members also help farmers in different farming activities, like olive picking especially in dangerous areas, where there is a danger of confrontation with Israeli settlers or military. From Sharaka, another group established a Non-for-Profit Company to support small-scale farmers who have no access to the market. For the time being, there are 350 consumers who buy their food through “Adel company” (Adel means fair). The Arab Agronomists Association (AAA) is providing the technical support to farmers to move towards agro-ecology and link them with Adel.

Members of CSA groups are highly educated people, who want to support Palestinian farmers to cope with many problems they are facing starting with the occupation. Consumers also want chemical-free products, but they are willing to also support small-scale farmers who care about the environment.

Recently, another group of consumers has been forming around a farmer who has been returned his confiscated land and who started his agro-ecological farm. This group consists of about 20 consumers.

In 2015, a new initiative took place, when AAA started to work with a village called “Farkha” in the middle of the West Bank of Palestine to convert the village into eco-village starting with agro-ecology. The total population of this village is about 1,500 inhabitants and nearly 90% of the population depends partially or fully on agriculture. AAA is establishing a demonstration and pedagogical eco-farm on an area of 1.5 hectare. A group of households in the village also started to apply agro-ecological principles in their home gardens. The idea is to start in one village and then to move to the surrounding villages, with the perspective of creating a network of Palestinian eco-villages, where agro-ecology stands at the core of this vision.

There is only one organic certified farm producing vegetables, but for the CSA groups the system is mainly based on building trust between farmers and consumers who do not want the farmers to opt for organic certification, as they no longer believe in this system.

Local definition of CSA

In Palestine, mainly in the larger cities, there is a rising consciousness about the importance of eating “clean” food, which means eating food that has been produced using natural methods. As a result, groups of people have started to look for farmers who are practicing agro-ecology. There is also a rising tendency to boycott products from Israel, and people are willing to support poor Palestinian farmers.

So CSA is understood here as a mean of supporting poor farmers and of getting natural food, but also for some people, of boycotting Israeli products.

Are there different types of CSA?

There are different models for supporting farmers. As mentioned before, there are CSAs around individual farmers, as well as such models such as Sharaka and the not-for-profit company called Adel, which is the most successful model.

There is no specific legal status for CSAs. The only officially registered body is “Adel”, which organizes weekly markets. Adel’s eaters are eager to wait a week to buy the food, because they see that it has a different taste. They usually arrive 2 hours before the opening of the weekly market to queue for the products.

Organic certification is not required in these initiatives; relationships with farmers are based on trust.

The Ten Teikei principles are not known as such in Palestine, but most of the principles are observed without actually knowing these principles.

Agroecological practices

In Palestine, all land is owned either by farmers or by the State. There are even a few cases where the land is owned by the village and under full control of the village council. Farmers can do nothing on this common land.

Farmers usually work on their land or they have a lease agreement with the owner. It is easier to convince farmers who own the land to convert to agro-ecology than those leasing land. People from the first group care much more about the land and the soil than people from the second group, who want to maximize their profits in a very short time.

Farmers are very inventive and are implementing many different agro-ecological practices, which are similar to the ones applied in the other parts of the world. Recently, the farmers started to think about “healing nature” through water retention, and Arab Agronomists’ Association (AAA) started the first steps in the eco-farm in Farkha village.

There are many agricultural practices practiced locally, like:

  • Sandwich raised beds
  • Mixed and companion planting
  • Composting and using of compost tea
  • Mulching using organic materials
  • Water retention practices.

In the last 3 years, AAA has organized two national conferences on agro-ecology.

The Arab Agronomists Association (AAA) could be considered as an umbrella organization and it displays aspects outlined in the Nyéléni Agro-ecology Declaration. AAA’s focus is to promote agro-ecology among Palestinians and Palestinian farmers.

The main challenges CSA is facing in Palestine are the following:

  • The lack of literature in Arabic on agro-ecology
  • Low number of trained agronomists on agro-ecology
  • Insufficient exchange of expertise between Palestinians and other countries.

The following means would be necessary to overcome these obstacles:

  • Translation of books on agro-ecology into Arabic (like Pierre Rabhi’s books)
  • Build a training program for agronomists and farmers on agro-ecology
  • Building an exchange of expertise program between Mediterranean countries.