“Water makes everything alive.” These are the words of Ali Sabbah, a Palestinian farmer who has just installed a new water cistern on his orchard. By doing so, he increased his family income after years with reduced safe access to farmland due to Israeli policies.
Ali lives in Qaffin village, in the northern West Bank. He and his wife are financially responsible for their five children, as well as for Ali’s parents and for his younger brother. Their orchard is planted with olives, figs, peaches, cactuses, and almonds. Their revenue is modest; they consume most of the yield, and sell the rest.
They also own additional farmlands, farther away from the village. But access to those lands has been challenging since 2002, when the Israeli authorities, citing security concerns, built the West Bank Barrier, separating between the village and the groves; to access them, they now need to get special permits and go through gates that only open seasonally.
While the family’s access to the closer orchard is easier, they do not feel safe there. Ali says that an Israeli settler often brings cattle to graze in and around his orchard. Once, Ali came to the land and found out that his newly planted almond saplings had been eaten, presumably by the settler’s sheep. The settler is also said to sometimes harass or intimidate Ali and other Palestinian farmers, trying to make them stay away.
Additionally, the land on which the grove is planted is hilly, and hence difficult to install greenhouses on. Since water is scarce in the area, the family and other farmers are forced to grow plants that require less of it. This too has prevented them from maximizing productivity.
In March 2021, Première Urgence Internationale (PUI), through support from the occupied Palestinian territory Humanitarian Fund (oPt HF), supported the family in putting in place a water cistern in the orchard. With this, they now have enough water to irrigate the crops properly.
Overall, the project supported more than 200 families in three villages where farming is challenging or unsafe because of Israeli policies, like the settlements or the Barrier, or because of water scarcity or poor access roads. Most of the farmers benefitted from the rehabilitation of agricultural roads. Others were supported in rehabilitating their lands. And three families were provided with cisterns or water carrier lines to boost irrigation capacity.
“We are so happy with the new cistern,” Ali said. “It’s such a major change. We no longer have to worry so much about water not being enough. I will let other farmers with lands nearby use my cistern to water their crops too.”
With the newly available cistern, the family is now considering growing other crops, such as pepper, radish, garlic, cucumber, tomatoes or eggplants. They have already decided to plant some citrus trees.
“We have a life in here now,” Ali concluded, “Water makes everything alive. I even started noticing a new type of birds coming to drink from the water bowl I put next to the cistern.”