Jost Franko: Farming in Gaza
In Gaza, where the Israeli border is within sight, Palestinian farmers try to make a living cultivating crops like strawberries, oranges, grapefruits, and olives. Their task became even more difficult after a military blockade in 2007 made it impossible to export their products, forcing them to sell only in their occupied, war-torn land. Up to 80 percent of gricultural yields from Gaza and the West Bank used to be sold abroad, but a ban on exports has devastated the Gazan economy to its lowest point. At the same time, essential supplies including fuel and electricity are strictly regulated by Israel.
The economic blockade is merely one facet of a farmer’s war-torn life. The places where farmers are most likely to be settled—small communities like Rafah, Khan Younis and Beit Hanoun—are now known as front lines, and the most likely places where missiles are to be fired, houses destroyed and lives taken. It is in these struggling farming towns where the Israeli army bulldozes land and sniper fire is a familiar occurrence for families. More than 35 percent of Gaza’s agricultural land is in so-called Buffer Zones. Officially, these restricted-access areas extend 300 meters into the Gaza Strip. In reality, they can extend up to 1,500 meters from the border fence, and are enforced with lethal means. In addition to declining agricultural production in the Gaza Strip, existing water shortages are exacerbated by heavy pollution, leaving just 10 percent of the water supply potable. Due to limitations on land cultivation, farmers of the Gaza Strip lose about $50 million in potential profit annually. Though select products are allowed to be exported today, the export rate is still ten times lower than it was before the blockade took effect. In 2012, just 9 million stems of carnations were exported from Gaza during the flower season; before the blockade, closer to 50 million Gaza flowers circulated around the world. - via viiphoto.com
1. Medhat Hamad opens the gate to his farmland during a family reunion
2. Farm hands harvest crops and load them onto a car in Khan Younis, approximately 350 meters from Palestine’s border with Israel
3. Baby of Al Roomi family, sleeps in her mothers lap on a tricycle, in Rafah, southern Gaza Strip, Palestine, on Nov. 9, 2013. Al Roomis family baby is seen sleeping in her mothers lap, on a tricycle, while his father is loading the products from their land on the tricycle.
4. Cabbage is harvested in Rafah. In June 2006, an Israeli soldier was kidnapped in the area. Today, residents believe Rafah to be among the most difficult and dangerous places to cultivate crops in Gaza.
5. Members of Medhat Hamad’s family peel and eat oranges at a family reunion in Beit Hanoun, on the farm that was bulldozed by the Israeli army
6. Abu Tareq Wahadans’s son distributes fertilizer on their farm. Due to Palestine’s fuel crisis, many farmers must use horse-drawn carts to move around their farms and perform daily agricultural work.
7. Farmers lay an irrigation system in Beit Lahia, near the Erez Checkpoint, in Palestine’s northern Gaza Strip, October 2013.
8. Medhat Hamad’s grandchild, lays on the ground in their farmland, in Beit Hanoun in northern Gaza Strip, Palestine, on Nov. 1, 2013. Medhat Hamad’s grandchild is seen laying on the ground in their farmland. His children and grandchildren are hanging out at their farmland after a family reunion.
9. Remains of a rocket following an Israeli air strike lay on the ground, as shadows of Eyad Qudaih’s two daughters are seen next to them, near Qudaih family’s house, in Khan Younis, southern Gaza Strip, on Nov. 10, 2013. Children ran to their fathers, just before the projectile hit their bedroom, Eyad remembers. “If they stayed in the room, they would have been all dead.”
10. Land belonging to farmer Mohammed Abu Daqqa is seen in Khan Younis, the so called Buffer Zone, about 300 meters from the border with Israel. Given this proximity and the risk of Isreali army sniper fire, Abu Daqqa is unable to hire workers to help farm his land.