ROME, Italy, July 30, 2004 (ENS):
A pilot project to improve the deteriorating agricultural
resources of the Palestinian West Bank and Gaza Strip
was announced on Thursday by the government of Italy
and the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization
(FAO). Orchards and fields will be replanted, irrigation
systems installed and rangelands reseeded over the next
The $1.5 million project will be funded by Italy and
implemented by the FAO. The goal is the support of close
to 12,000 poor people in rural areas of Bethlehem, Hebron,
Gaza and Tulkarm.
Project activities will be carried out jointly by the
FAO and the Ministry of Agriculture of the Palestinian
The project is rooted in an assessment of the food
and nutrition situation in the West Bank and Gaza Strip
conducted in 2003 at the request of the Minister for
Agriculture of the Palestinian Authority. The FAO, the
World Food Programme and the UN Relief and Works Agency
carried out the assessment, which was funded jointly
by the European Commission and the U.S. Agency for International
With rising poverty and unemployment, the food security
situation in the West Bank and Gaza Strip has considerably
deteriorated over the past three years, the assessment
The World Food Programme (WFP) reported during its
assessment that unemployment is at 67 percent and, "as
a result of the deepening poverty, Palestinians have
begun to sell vital assets in order to purchase food."
Food insecurity is a reality for 1.4 million people
- about 40 percent of the population living in the West
Bank and Gaza Strip, the assessment found.
Food is a constant worry for an additional 1.1 million
people - 30 percent - who are under threat of becoming
food insecure should prevailing conditions persist.
Though food is generally available, the assessment
concluded, access is limited due to curfews and closures
imposed by Israel, in addition to high unemployment,
depletion of resources, exhaustion of coping strategies
and strained social support networks.
The assessment confirmed the findings of other recent
studies that Palestinian households have until now been
able to manage in the difficult circumstances albeit
with dwindling resources and increased vulnerability
But "resilience has been greatly weakened, vulnerability
increased and coping mechanisms severely strained by
the rapid and inexorable decline in the economy and
the continuation and further tightening of closures
and curfews," the UN agencies report, saying the
project is urgently needed.
"Farmers and their families will directly benefit
from improved skills, techniques and infrastructure
provided by the project," the FAO said.
As part of the project, orchards will be replanted
with improved varieties and greenhouses will be replaced.
Irrigation systems will be installed, rainwater harvest
systems will be established in this arid environment,
and integrated pest management equipment will be provided
to the farming community.
Project plans include planting of vegetables, fodder,
olive and fruit trees; renovating animal sheds; rehabilitating
rangeland through reseeding, fencing and constructing
water points; and training the private and public sector
in the proper management and sustainable use of inputs
and natural resources.
In the medium to longer-term, the FAO said, there should
be increased investment in agriculture as it creates
labor intensive employment, provides a variety of food
for promoting dietary diversification, encourages women's
participation in the development process and prevents
further asset depletion and welfare dependency.
"While the political and economic situation remains
volatile and unpredictable," the FAO said, "the
project will develop and test innovative approaches
suitable for an urgently needed long term rehabilitation
of agriculture and will minimize the risk in terms of
Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2004. All