Growing Food and Possibilities

For Leila a single mother with seven dependent children, life was tough. Living on the West Bank in Palestine, she had few options and only dreams of a better future. The family was dependent on welfare assistance and the extra income the children could earn working on neighbouring farms after school. But with a new mini farm and a business plan, she is hard at work making the most of what she has.

In 2011 CWS partner, the Department of Service to Palestinian Refugees (DSPR) began a new programme in Baqa Al Shariya, the small village in the north west where they live. The programme worked with 32 aspiring farmers, training them in livestock and fruit and vegetable farming. The newly trained farmers were given livestock or greenhouses and seedlings as well as regular home visits to offer support and guidance.

Leila explains,
“It was an unused abandoned area, full of dirt and rocks. I always dreamt of such a project but I never had the means to do it. Now I can attend to the family’s needs and at the same time work at the farm. My children now help on our own farm instead of working elsewhere. We have bought additional seasonal seeds and seedlings and have a variety of vegetables in the plastic house. We’ve made use of every available space. We have saved money by not having to buy vegetables. The two sheep we received have reproduced and we now have four. In two years we should have 10 and we will be able to use the milk and make cheese. As the holy month of Ramadan approaches I intend to focus on producing parsley and mint which will be in high demand at that time and I can make a good income to be able to buy new clothes for my children.”

With more than 37% of people living below the poverty line, DSPR had identified Baqa Al Sharqiya and neighbouring Nazlett Issa for their food security programme. Both communities had been cut in half by the Israeli built Separation Wall. Eight metres high it has caused considerable damage to both communities. Already in 1948, Baqa Al Sharquiya was cut in two – the town of Baqaal Gharbiye remaining under Israeli jurisdiction. Locals like Leila have lost valuable farming land, businesses and income earning opportunities with each new action. Ever hopeful of a peaceful life, Leila is focusing her efforts on her family and newly developed block of land.

The cost of the separation wall in Baqa Al Shariya and Nazlett Issa:
• 3,200 olive trees and 800 fruit trees were uprooted
• 760 shops in Nazlet Issa demolished
• 60 families denied permits and access to their land
• 40 marble workshops, 18 carpentry shops, 2 cement block workshops and 1 cement and plastic factory closed.

DSPR achievements in Baqa Al Shariya and Nazlet Issa village (also working with 32 families):
• 6,400m² land has been reclaimed for agriculture
• 32 greenhouses with drip irrigation systems erected
• 180 diverse seedlings distributed and planted in 32 households
• 320 chickens and 64 sheep were distributed to 32 households
• 4 beneficiaries worked for 100 days on the project to build 32 greenhouses.

More about DSPR
DSPR was founded in 1948 to support Palestinian refugees in the region. Area committees work in Israel (Galilee), Lebanon, Jordan, Gaza and the West Bank involving the refugees in decision making and as part of the peace process. DSPR believes that all Palestinians have the right of return and is constantly working for a political solution to their continued refugee status. It is an ecumenical church-related programme and an integral part of the Middle East Council of Churches.
Their work includes:
• Running three health clinics for mothers and children in Gaza and another in Jordan’s Madaba camp.
• Vocational training programmes for Palestinian young people
• Built new sanitation facilities in Qaffine, maintained by a children’s committee.
• Established three new computer centres in Madaba, Hiteen and Irbid refugee camps.
• Provided interest free loans for university and college fees as well as business loans.
• Trauma counselling and psychological support programmes
• Agricultural training and establishment programmes
• Training in human rights and interfaith understanding.
• Building wells to provide safe and sufficient water.
• Run a self-supporting sewing cooperative in Gaza.
PDF or Word

Israel Palestine Land Backgrounder from DSPR