PHP and PDA partner with IDCO in Gaza on livelihood development and Covid-19 response
By Rajeh Abbas | Improvement and Development for Communities Center, Palestine
Have you ever searched for Palestine on the world map? Palestine is so small that you can barely fit your finger on it without overstepping borders. However, The contradiction between its tiny geographical size on the world map and the enormous amount of suffering and pain that only worsen with each passing year is a cruel irony. The saddest contradiction is that Israel continues to annex more and more agricultural land, thus decreasing the Palestinian areas further and turning the lives of farmers into a living hell. Systematic oppression against the Palestinian people continues, causing displacement, economic deprivation, food insecurity and inevitable poverty.
The Israeli occupation has denied Palestinians access to 18% of the arable land on the eastern and northern borders of the Gaza Strip under the pretext of security isolation. Fifty years ago, more than a third of Palestine’s budget was dedicated to the agricultural sector, but in 2018, agriculture is just 1% of the total public budget, which indicates a serious failure to strengthen Palestinian production and food sovereignty. This decline in agricultural development is happening at a time of unjust blockades on the Gaza Strip that allow people only 4 hours of electricity daily and growing dependence on food aid. And just when everyone thought that the situation could not get worse – the coronavirus pandemic took the world and Gaza by storm and Gaza.
Despite the immense darkness (literally and figuratively) which Palestinians found themselves in, there still glimmered the light of hope represented by our partnership with the Presbyterian Church (USA) through the Presbyterian Hunger Program (PHP) and the Presbyterian Disaster Assistance (PDA).
Throughout the past five years, PHP has donated $51,000 towards agricultural development and livelihood oriented projects in the Gaza Strip. With PHP’s financial support and partnership, IDCO continues to support livelihood development, income generation, food production and resilience of the people of Gaza Strip in important ways. Due to the PHP support received, IDCO was able to provide farmers with the needed seeds, tools and equipment and materials for restarting agricultural activities. Farmers who benefited increased their income from agricultural activities by 42% and reduced their debts by 43%. Furthermore, beneficiaries were able to reduce their overall household expenditures by 39% with the gains in crop yields.
The most significant long-term achievement of these interventions is that the farmers experienced improvements in their livelihoods that helped them to move out of poverty. Before the interventions, 97% of farmers indicated that they would sell their land if necessary for survival. However, now, the majority of farmers benefited are no longer faced with starvation and are thriving on their land.
Samaher Mansi is a Gazan woman who took charge of her family’s agricultural business when her husband fell ill. Samaher faced a lot of difficulties cultivating crops in the middle of the suffocating blockade where the production costs were high and cut into her profits. The assistance she received from IDCO helped her to revitalize the business with new agricultural supplies and learn techniques for improving production and generating more income.
The work that we have carried out with the support of the Presbyterian Church (USA) has not only improved the financial situation of beneficiaries, but also their psychological health. Farmers like Samaher, who have faced so many challenges and miraculously survived, now are faced with the coronavirus pandemic. With a population of almost 2 million people and an area of 365 square meters, the Gaza Strip is one of the most densely populated places in the world, which makes it high risk for a widespread disease outbreak. Further risks to the population are that medical supplies and equipment are very limited in Gaza.
The Presbyterian Disaster Assistance (PDA) has supported high risk families with with COVID-19 related WASH prevention kits, awareness campaigns on personal hygiene and cleaning practices at the household level.
It is interesting how in both the Holy Quran and the Bible there are almost similar verses that say “Allah does not burden a soul beyond what it can bear”(Surah Al-Baqara, verse 286) and “God is faithful, and he will not let you be tested beyond your strength” (1 Corinthians 10:13).When it seems that there is no solution and the situation could never be repaired, God sends help so that we may weather the storm. Looking back, the Presbyterian Church (USA) has definitely been that help for us, so that we can continue to do this life changing work.
The work of the Presbyterian Hunger Program is possible thanks to your gifts to One Great Hour of Sharing.
 PNGO Statement on Israeli Annexation Plan http://gupap.org/en/new-events/the-agricultural-sector-in-the-palestinian-ngos-network-warns-against-the-dangers-of-annexation-and-calls-for-strengthening-the-farmers-steadfastness-in-their-lands/