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Today in the Mission Yearbook

Minute for Mission: International Day of Farmers Struggles

 

April 17, 2024

An IDCO trainer meets with Ibrahim Nizar Abu Banat and his family. (Photo courtesy of IDCO)

April 17 marks the International Day of Farmer and Peasant Struggles.[i] It is a day when we recognize the sacrifices of smallholder producer farmers who tend the garden and nourish the world.

And we acknowledge on this day that smallholder farmers are facing more struggles today than in recent history. And these struggles are painfully obvious in Gaza where gardens, farms and greenhouses have been destroyed in the conflict, and of course many thousands of farmers and other civilians have been killed.

Here is a success story from the Presbyterian Hunger Program’s partner Improvement Development Communities Organization (IDCO) from 2022. It is a story of hope for the future, but also a story of the challenges that farmers in the Gaza Strip were living under occupation before the war started in October 2023. Since the telling of this story, the IDCO headquarters were destroyed in the Israeli bombing and we have no idea if this family is still alive, but it is likely that their home and greenhouse have been destroyed since they lived in the North of the Gaza Strip, which has been devastated by the conflict.

Ibrahim Nizar Abu Banat, 41, a husband, and a father of four, living in Beit lahya North Gaza Strip, is the only breadwinner of his family, including his old parents who are living with his family. He has inherited his way of living in agriculture from his father, as he opened his eyes since a young age on farming and under the sun especially that they live in the rural areas where there was a very poor access to educational institutions back then, and so neither him nor any of his siblings are educated.

As Ibrahim started to care for his own family, he started seeking to become more independent, for it was not feasible for him to work with his father; kids were growing, and their needs were increasing. That’s when he decided to borrow his father’s land and start working for better support of his family.

Ibrahim weighs his produce on a scale. (Photo courtesy of IDCO)

Ibrahim says: “We have been working in farming our whole life. We’re very passionate about earth, our bare feet wallowing in the soil, and our hands harvesting the green leaves and dealing with each seedling as one of our kids; to be so in touch with mother earth is our only way of living.”

Ibrahim is a beneficiary among many other farmers who received agricultural support and trainings from Presbyterian Hunger Program projects that work in cooperation with IDCO on capacity building for farmers, farmers’ resilience, livelihood enhancement, food security and agricultural land reclamation.

In 2022, PHP and IDCO launched Marketing Linkage for Rural and Urban Areas project based on market need assessment for greenhouse farmers to identify their needs for their products. The project targeted 20 vulnerable, small-scale farmers who have weak access to the market in order to enhance their harvesting, post harvesting and marketing skills.

“Now with all the support and skills which increased my profits, we can make a delicious dish twice a week,” Ibrahim said. “My children have some learning disability, so I pay them for remedial courses. They all help me in the farm, but I wish them a better opportunity in their education, to reach and achieve what I couldn’t. My last hope is to send both my wife and my mother for treatment outside the country as they have cartilage issues in the knees. We usually work from 5 a.m.–12 p.m., and continue to work from 5 p.m.–8 p.m. I relate their disease not only for the hard work they do, but also the accumulated worries over our heads besides living in a war zone; any time a security incident escalates, we become stressed over our greenhouses. Any bomb targeting it is a disaster; it is our only source for living.”

Eileen Schuhmann; Associate for Global Engagement and Resources; Presbyterian Hunger Program; Compassion, Peace and Justice

[i] Since 1996, in memory of the massacre of 19 Brazilian landless peasants who were brutally assassinated, the Via Campesina, an international peasants movement, has declared April 17 to be the International Day of Farmer and Peasant Struggles, a day for recognizing the struggles of smallholder food producers globally and organizing actions in support of food sovereignty and food justice.

Today’s Focus: International Day of Farmers Struggles

Let us join in prayer for:

PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
Ingerlene Frick,  Associate Director, Marketing & Communications, Stony Point Center, Presbyterian Mission Agency  
Stephanie Fritz, Manager, Christian Formation, Presbyterian Mission Agency  

Let us pray

Creator, we pray today for farmers like Ibrahim who are farming because they love the land and want to nourish their families and communities. We pray for a world in which farmers like Ibrahim can ensure their children and families a peaceful and dignified future. We pray for a ceasefire in Gaza and lasting peace in the region. And we pray for small farmers all over the world who are also faced with violence and the destruction of their dreams of the future, that they may also experience God’s saving grace.