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Saturday June 18, 2011 11:49 AM (EST+7)
In Gaza, blockade drives farming self-reliance

Read more: agriculture, farming, organic, fertilizer, blockade, closure, food, security, food security

RAMALLAH, June 18 (JMCC) - In Gaza, the stifling Israeli blockade prevents the use of imported fertilizer. As a result, some farmers are going organic, seeking to feed their families and the rest of the Gaza Strip, reports the Guardian.

Near the volatile Israeli border, 20km north, organic sage, thyme and fennel lie in the beds of a 1.5-hectare chemical-free farm, part of a pilot project initiated by Gaza's Safe Agriculture Producers Society (SAPS), which aims to spread organic farming techniques in the embattled territory. At first, most of them didn't want to try it. [They] thought they would lose their harvest if they didn't apply chemicals, says its director, Abd el-Munem.

For years, Gazans have relied heavily on imported pesticides and fertilisers. Most saw little incentive to risk trying the organic farming techniques promoted by SAPS, until the chemicals became scarce. The siege was a good chance for us to convince the farmers that it's possible to produce without these pesticides and without these chemical fertilisers, says Munem.

Last year, the Hamas government got on board, announcing a 10-year strategy aimed at skirting the blockade and developing sustainable agriculture. We try to depend on our own resources. Basically, we're trying to use organic methods and go back to traditional forms of farming, says Dr Mohammed al-Agha, Gaza's minister of agriculture and a professor of environmental science at the Islamic University in Gaza.

Gazans pay more than $200 a tonne for fertilisers made from Israeli waste water run-off. The price is high and quality and safety are uncertain, according to some experts. The solution is to produce their own, on a scale large enough to satisfy market demand.







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