Gaza Urban Agriculture Committee (GUAC)
Palestinian Agricultural Relief Committees (PARC)
Gaza Urban Agriculture Committee (GUAC)
Telefax; +972 7 2826318, 2844491
Contact person : Ahmed Sourani Coordinator of GUAC
Supporting And Encouraging Urban Agricultural Activities In Gaza Region
Background about GUAC:
Gaza Urban Agriculture Committee (GUAC) was created by the Palestinian Agricultural Relief Committees in Gaza and after the organization of a regional workshop in Dec.1998 "on the future of UA in Gaza Strip". Consequently, the establishment of GUAC came as one of the main concrete results of the said workshop and the following organizations have been named as members of the committee : PARC, Ministry of Agriculture, Gaza Municipality, Khan-Yunis Municipality , Palestinian Hydrology Group, and the Palestinian Farmers Union.
GUAC conducts monthly meetings which are attended also by other potential local partners like universities. The committee has managed to put a two years plan of action that is based on the main outcomes and recommendations highlighted by the UA workshop organized in Gaza last December, such as:
- Improving use of water resources / water -use efficiency for UA.
- Promote and encourage the optimal use of available spaces for UA, like houses back and front yards, schools, clinics & hospitals, streets, public gardens, cemeteries .... etc.
- Enhance citizens and urban farmer's awareness and knowledge of sustainable and organic urban agriculture.
- Establishment of adequate support services for UA.
- Institutional capacity development for UA .
Taking into consideration the above mentioned recommendations, GUAC has managed to implement some important and basic activities since the beginning of the year 1999 like; the formulation of GUAC's strategic and yearly plans of action, promoting and documenting all issues and materials and information raised by the regional workshop and producing the first book of its kind in the country about Future of Urban Agriculture in Gaza Strip, starting up a mutual cooperation and contacts with some local and international organizations interested in the same subject like International Network for UA in USA, ETC - Holland and IDRC Cairo, starting up local contacts to establish local network for UA in Gaza, furnishing two local gardens and 15 houses and three schools with fruitful trees, shade trees, seeds and seedlings.
Future of Urban Agriculture in Gaza (and The Project Justifications):
Today, the Gaza Strip is supplied with sufficient local and imported food at reasonable prices. Agricultural land is still available, but current urbanization will soon eliminate rural farming systems and practices. Land and water scarcity stimulated farmers to increase annual yields by using high external inputs causing severe environmental damage. Intensive use of pesticides, insecticides and chemical fertilizers has contributed significantly to the pollution of the ground water in Gaza Strip.
Transport from and to Gaza is restricted by Israeli security regulations and measures, frequent closures and decrease of labor revenues from Gaza workers in Israel, have caused mass unemployment and an overall decline of living conditions. The lack of industrial and economic export potential have turned the eyes of short term investors once more to the agricultural sector, and for years this sector has provided Israeli exporters with the needed export volumes to supply the European markets.
Despite the lack of facilities and the decreasing of resources, about 20 percent of the employed labor force in Gaza is still working in the agricultural sector. In addition, many families are active in the informal agriculture sector. The volume of this sector is not known, but from other parts in the world we know that traditionally the importance of the informal sector is underestimated.
Urban Agriculture is increasingly recognized as a realistic and desirable land use option in urban areas and an integral part of the urban productive system. The potential of UA for enhanced food security, employment creation and small enterprises development, environment management and productive use of urban wastes, are becoming widely acknowledged.
Although Gaza Strip constitutes one urban area, agricultural authorities thoughts are determined by a frame of rural style references. PARC and GUAC as well believe that introduction of UA concepts, policies and planning for the Gaza Strip is overdue. However, it is not too late;
The reasons for neglecting Urban Agriculture In Gaza Strip until recently include:
- High expectations are in conflict with the modest benefits of UA.
- The concept of UA is still to be recognized in Gaza.
- Little experience and knowledge about UA among agronomists.
- People have little awareness of the economic potentials of UA.
Recognizing the need to protect the remaining rural areas for food production, recreation, and as natural resources, both GUAC and PARC believe that they should develop a strategy to optimize conditions for UA today, and for the time when UA will become a main source of food production and income generating for many families in the Gaza Strip. The importance of food production for this urban area without "hinterland" cannot be underestimated. Palestinian politicians referring to Gaza as the new " Singapore or Hong Kong of the Middle East " should be interested to know that for a long time the authorities of these cities have embraced UA as a vital economic activity.
GUAC is convinced that in the view of decreasing land and water scarcity, UA provides a sustainable alternative for the urban poor families and farmers in the Gaza Strip and will make a major contribution to its food security, income generation and the sustainable environmental management, as has been formulated in Agenda 21 of the Earth Summit in Rio De Janeiro (1991, and the World Food Summit in Rome (1996).
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