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Farmers in Gaza see benefits of green switch

China Daily | Updated: 2022-01-17 10:00

A farmer harvests dates from a date palm tree during the harvest season in Dir Al Balah city, central Gaza Strip, on Sept 23, 2021. [Photo/Xinhua]

GAZA-Each morning more than 140 Palestinian farmers gather in the town of Beit Lahia in the northern Gaza Strip to plant and tend to crops to sell locally or in Israel.

"This scene has long been absent from a town famous for being an agricultural area, due to the difficult political and economic conditions," said Munir Hamdouna, 63, a farm owner in Beit Lahia.

Hamdouna, a father of 13, said he was happy to see the resumption, noting that he has resorted to a local agriculture initiative as part of Gaza's pursuit of a green economy that emphasizes both environmental friendliness and profits.

Over the years the number of farmers in the Gaza Strip has fallen because arable land has shrunken in the face of urban expansion and floundering exports under Israel's blockade since Hamas took over in 2007.

Fifteen years ago, Hamdouna said, things became dire because of a shortage of labor, and he had to sell some of his farms to make ends meet. He kept just a few as a family lifeline, a portion that was still expensive to take care of because of high diesel prices.

"The production cost was very high, and sales were insignificant, which led to huge losses."

As a result, his children did not want to become farmers.

Hamdouna grows many crops, including tomatoes, cucumbers, strawberries, melons and guavas, which are very time and labor intensive.

Pilot projects

One modern farming method he has adopted is hanging strawberries, thus saving space, making room for other types of berries, and another is using renewable energy and rainwater.

Hamdouna's farm is one of two pilot projects recently launched in the Gaza Strip.

"The aim of establishing these two farms is to reduce environmental risks and achieve sustainable development without leading to a state of environmental degradation," said Noha al-Sharif, public relations officer at the Palestinian Agricultural Relief Society, adding that modern farming may help strengthen the resilience of Gaza residents.

Farm administrators were also exploring agritourism, as a rest stop was set up hanging over the branches of a sycamore tree that is more than 50 years old.

Mustafa al-Rifi, the engineer supervising the project, said that the rest stop accounts for about half the farm's profit "because domestic tourists prefer to spend their time in nature".


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