Representatives of local and international society organizations, as well as private sector, called for setting a Palestinian national comprehensive strategy for food security, involving all relevant bodies.
According to participants, the desired strategy should aim at ensure achieving food security and ensures the participation of all parties to maintain conditions of food availability, accessibility and safe use, and enhances Palestinian sovereignty over all resources of food.
Participants also called for encouraging investment in agriculture, mainly through hydroponics and smart green houses, and to preserve agricultural lands away from urbanization that continues to swallow large swathes of farmland. They further called for thinking differently in the agricultural pattern to rely on treated sewage water for irrigation purposes so that we turn to crops irrigated with treated water, have high productivity and replace imports.
In their discussion, they considered food security in Palestine as a main component of Palestinian sovereignty on the ground, especially in the Gaza Strip, where the population continues to endure a series of crises and frequent Israeli occupation attacks, amidst a prolonged Israel-imposed siege.
Participants believed that food production is based on raw materials and commercial policies, mainly exports and imports, which all have been badly affected by the current Ukraine-Russia crisis.
The workshop, organized by PNGO, was titled "Reality of food security in the Gaza Strip in light of the global food crisis" and was based on a study presented by Dr. Nabil Abu Shammala, within a project, "Channels of Developing Community Needs within a Rapid Population Growth in the Gaza Strip", in partnership with Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung.
Director of PNGO, Amjad Shawa, said in an opening speech that the Gaza Strip has suffered from the lack of food security, with 68.5% of the population lacks food security because of frequent Israeli attacks on the region, as well as the Israel-imposed siege that has been in place for 15 years, now.
Shawa noted that the siege has impacted all social and economic aspects of life and has helped rise of unemployment rate. The matter worsened with global inflation, amidst current Ukraine-Russia crisis, prices of main commodities in Palestine, especially imported ones, have soured, Shawa added.
He pointed out that the population growth has been on the rise, due to increased demands for foods, amidst limited productions, caused by the urbanization drive on farm lands. He further noted that the population growth is incompatible with foods production.
From his part, Programs Manager with Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung, Dr. Usama Antar, said that “the partnership with PNGO this year has helped set forth several indicators for a better future of the Gaza Strip.
He asserted that ensuring food availability at the local level is a key to food security, since easy access to foods that are produced locally, in return for reasonable prices, across the various geographical areas.
Dr. Nabil Abu Shammala's study addressed both the concept and the reality of food security in the Gaza Strip, noting that low production rates of food stuff is mainly attributed to a number of economic and political factors.
He explained that the Israel-imposed siege of the Gaza Strip and frequent Israeli military attacks on it, starting from the 2008's war through the 2022's, were among the most pressing factors that have badly affected agricultural productivity and increased rate of poverty, due to large swathes of farmland have been damaged and restriction of access to land leading to noticeable fluctuation in the food security indicators.
Abu Shammala explained that improving food security is a sole responsibility on the shoulders of local Palestinian government, calling on governments to further support the agricultural sector to ensure food availability, fighting unemployment by creating job opportunities and raising awareness among the local population towards a better food culture.
In the meantime, he emphasized on the role of local society organizations in lobbying and advocating, among local governments and donor bodies, for the best of funding of food security programs, as being a top priority.
He also noted that the private sector has a role to play, mainly investing in the agricultural field and working on creating sustainable job opportunities.
In addition, he pointed out that improving food security requires working on ensuring food availability, either through local productions or by means of exports from abroad. He believed that food accessibility should be within the framework to fight poverty and unemployment and raise the awareness of local community towards safe usage of food stuff.
According to Abu Shammala's study, rate of anemia among Palestinian childbearing women, has risen; the percentage of pregnant women suffering from iron deficiency in the Gaza Strip reached to 30.8%, causing a variety of diseases and in some cases to mortality, disability or cognitive complications, and decline in productivity among those women.
He noted that iron is available in red meat and vegetables, saying that a large portion of the population does not have access to protein, due to inflated prices of meat and chickens.
Abu Shammala called for securing funds that would help government-run institutions to absorb more staff within the public sector, as well as refunding deficits, endured by such institutions.
He made clear that the concept of poverty food security, based on definitions by various specialized international organizations, can’t be maintained without working to achieve the first goal of the sustainable development goals, which is the poverty eradication.
He also called for replacing exported foods with locally-produced ones, in order to improve food security. He believed that working on ' food sovereignty', would enhance locally-produced food stuff and support the steadfastness of local Palestinian farmers.
Abu Shammala called for reconsidering future agricultural patterns so that we plant crops that depends on treated water for irrigation and with high productivity rate which in turn replace imports. This is the responsibility of the government in the first place in partnership with civil society organizations, farmers and the private sector.
Other participants of the workshop presented their own notes and recommendations for the improvement of food security in Palestine, in general and in the Gaza Strip, in particular.
They all asserted on the need for adopting a workable strategy that would improve food status in Palestine, in general and in the Gaza Strip, in particular. They believed that such a strategy should be comprehensive, integrated and applied on all areas of the Palestinian territories, at all levels, whereas all relevant sectors are involved.
Eventually, they called for encouraging food processing within a long-term scheme for the usage of agricultural and livestock products.