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An estimated 1.6 million Palestinians across the occupied Palestinian territory, or 31.5 per cent of households, are food insecure (as of the end of 2017). This results from high unemployment, low household incomes and a high cost of living. The former two are the result of the protracted conflict, repeated shocks and continued restrictions on freedom of movement, constrained productive capacities and a lack of economic opportunities. Although food is available, it is priced out of reach for many. Numerous households are food insecure even though they already receive food and other assistance.
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The 2020 olive harvest season, which took place in October and November, was an exceptionally poor one in terms of oil yield. The Palestinian Ministry of Agriculture expects a total of 13,000 tons of olive oil (including some 1,500 tons in the Gaza Strip), which represents a more than 55 per cent decrease compared with 2019. This has been attributed to the alternate fruit-bearing “on and off seasons”, coupled with poor rainfall distribution and temperature extremes during the growing cycle.
“I have lived in rented accommodation for the past 25 years,” said Sabreen, aged 40, who lives in Beach Camp, near Gaza City, along with her husband and six children. “During these years, I was evicted 15 times for not paying rent. My husband was a fisherman, but he has been ill for the last six years and can’t work.”
Akkaba, (population 345), is a village in the Tulkarm governorate in the northern West Bank. About 88 per cent of the community’s 2,200 dunums of land is located in the closed area between the Barrier and the Green Line, the “Seam Zone”. In 2002, following a wave of Palestinian attacks, including suicide bombings, Israel began building the Barrier with the stated aim of preventing these attacks. The vast majority of the Barrier’s route is located within the West Bank, isolating Palestinian communities and farming land, and contributing to the fragmentation of the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt).
Based on a 2018 survey, over 1.2 million people in Gaza, or 62.2 per cent of households, were identified as moderately or severely food insecure, compared with 53.3 per cent in 2014, when the previous survey was conducted. In contrast, food insecurity in the West Bank decreased to 9.2 per cent, down from 11.8 per cent in 2014.
Basheer Sous, President of the Beit Jala Farmers’ Society, owns several plots of land in the Al Makhrour area of Beit Jala in Bethlehem governorate, which he shares with his brothers. Al Makhrour extends for approximately 3,000 dunums and in addition to Beit Jala, includes land which the villages of Al Walaja, Batir, Husan, Wadi Fukin and Nahalin have traditionally used. The apricot, olive, fig and almond trees in Al Makhrour, irrigated by natural springs, are an important source of livelihood for farmers from these communities.
The annual olive harvest, which takes place every year between October and November, is a key economic, social and cultural event for Palestinians. In the West Bank, more than 10 million olive trees are cultivated on approximately 86,000 hectares of land, representing 47 per cent of the total cultivated agricultural area. Between 80,000 and 100,000 families are said to rely on olives and olive oil for primary or secondary sources of income, and the sector employs large numbers of unskilled laborers and more than 15 per cent of working women. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the olive oil yield for the West Bank in 2019 is estimated to reach a record 27,000 tons, which is an 84 per cent increase over the previous year. The estimated record yield this year is due to the alternate fruit-bearing “on and off seasons” and less infestation by the olive fruit fly during the current season.