Ramallah – Gaza – The Union of Agricultural Committees announced that 30,000 farmers and fishermen benefited from the projects’ it implemented in 2016, this included the reclamation and rehabilitation of 1900 dunums of undeveloped and under the risk of confiscation lands, opening and rehabilitating 105km of agricultural lands, and increasing water harvest by 32,620m3, confirming that most of the work concentrated on areas classified as C in the West Bank and border areas in the Gaza Strip, emphasizing on the bond between the productive value, and the historic and national value of the Palestinian land.
In a report it published on Sunday summarizing its work for 2016, UAWC noted that it was able to realize developmental achievements, and expand its international relationships especially with the International Peasant Movement “La Via Campesina”, despite the difficulties caused by the limited funding, and the Israeli occupation government’s agitation against it in international forums.
UAWC also noted that it made a breakthrough in 2016 in regards to its work in lobbying and advocacy, and representing Palestinian farmers on the national, regional and international levels. Notably, more than 1000 farmers participated in UAWC’s campaign commemorating Land Day, UAWC also succeeded in reinforcing its relationship with a group of volunteers of young women and men, in addition to its permanent role in defending farmers’ rights through legal intervention against Israeli military orders that the farmers’ are constantly exposed to. The report pointed out that one the most important achievements was moving towards establishing “La Via Campesina” office in the Middle East and North Africa, and expanding the number of organizations which will participate in forming this regional branch; UAWC is responsible for establishing and managing “La Via Campesina” office in the region as the only Arab member in the international movement, which represents more than 200 million farmers across the world.
Mr. Fuad Abu Saif, UAWC’s General Director, noted that 29 projects were implemented last year, and were distributed amongst 9 governorates in the West Bank and 5 governorates in the Gaza Strip, targeting 95 localities, villages and towns in the WB and 20 in the GS.
He also Commented that these projects contributed to developing the agricultural sector, and building the capacities of the targeted groups, thus increasing their income. Adding that UAWC especially worked on the reclamation of lands that are ruined and under the threat of confiscation, it also provided farmers who were affected by difficult conditions with the needed support, presented food aid for poor families, and greatly contributed to the reduction of poverty and unemployment in the targeted areas, as the programs and projects which were implemented participated in raising the level of food security and increasing farmers’ agricultural production in the targeted areas.
Mr. Abu Saif confirmed that UAWC increased its efforts in responding to the targeted sector’s developmental and emergency needs, where the number of beneficiaries from its different programs, projects and various activities reached a total of 30,052 of both males and females, 19,719 of which are in the WB and 10,333 in the GS.
He also added that land reclamation is one of UAWC’s main programs, given its importance in reinforcing the steadfastness of farmers on their lands to protect it from being confiscated, as most of the land reclamation projects are implemented in areas classified as C and are under full Israeli control, referring to the reclamation of 900 dunums, and the rehabilitation of 1000 dunums which will result in increasing the beneficiaries’ expected income by 25% in the long run.
Moreover, the report indicated that UAWC built 95,000m2 of retaining walls saving up to 27,142 working days, in addition to its role in protecting the soil from erosion, it also worked on opening 105km of agricultural roads and distributing thousands of seedlings to farmers thus facilitating the access to 26,000 dunums of agricultural lands, and greatly contributing to protecting it from the risk of confiscation and settlement expansion. In terms of its work on the issue of water, being considered a main subject of conflict with the Israeli occupation, it was reported that activities implemented by UAWC contributed to increasing the water harvest by 32,620m3, 22,070m3 of which in the WB and 10,550m3 in the GS, through establishing three rain-water charging points with a capacity of 6000m2 to recharge groundwater, in addition to building 161 water collection wells, rehabilitating 41 artesian wells and 11 water springs, setting up 62km of water pipelines, providing farmers with 450 drip irrigation systems, and distributing 90 water tanks; all of these activities led to reducing the cost of a water cup by an average of 15%, which contributed to irrigating 8000 dunums of agricultural lands, thus increased the farmers’ average income by 15% at least.
In terms of livestock development, UAWC’s confirmed in its report that amongst its achievements was establishing a 1000 dunum pastoral land, and a demonstration sheep farm which benefits 200 farmers, in addition to providing vaccinations and vitamins to 24,000 heads of sheep, distributing 19 tons of forage seeds, rehabilitating 40 fishing boats and 80 fishing nets. Additionally, 29 solar energy units were installed, as UAWC focused in 2016 on the issue of climate change and coping mechanisms; finally, it distributed 40 heads of Merino improved sheep breed.
In conclusion, the report affirmed that the obstacles UAWC faced did not prevent it from performing its duties towards the agricultural sector, and from excelling on the administrative level, as it was able to obtain the quality management system certificate ISO 9001:2008. Finally, it reassured that its slogan will always remain “Protecting our lands and supporting our farmers”.