The Agricultural Development Association(PARC)
Contributed by This Week In Palestine on 08.08.2008:
Agriculture remains a dominant sector of the Palestinian economy. It is represented as the major source of income for most Palestinian families in rural areas. The construction of settlements and the Separation Wall in the West Bank has caused thousands of families in adjacent rural communities to lose their main source of income (land and water) and put an additional load on the weak Palestinian economy, depriving them of new sources of income. Due to limited accessibility and restriction of movement, it has been reported that approximately 40,000 employees in the agriculture sector have lost their jobs as a result of the closure and the restrictions on importing and exporting goods. This has also contributed to a weakening of the economy.
The total agricultural product in the Palestinian Authority (PA) is approximately $1 billion (out of a total GDP of $4-5 billion): 53 percent for plant production and 47 percent for livestock. The added value of plants is very high: 75 percent from the West Bank (almost 50:50 livestock and plants). However, the added value of livestock is low and continues to decline due to increasing fodder prices.
The agricultural practices in the West Bank and Gaza are quite different. The West Bank, being the main source of plantation, covers three quarters of the production, and makes up 91 percent of the cultivated lands. Most of the land is planted with fruit trees – mainly olives and almonds, and other forest trees. Some lands are also utilised as pasture for sheep and goats. Gaza is responsible for only about 25 percent of the agricultural products and is specialised in fresh-cut flowers.
The Agricultural Development Association (PARC) is one of the first Palestinian non-governmental organisations and was founded in 1983 in response to the lack of agricultural extension services for Palestinian farmers. This sector was intentionally ignored by the so-called Israeli Civil Administration’s agricultural department, in hopes that Palestinian farmers would desert their land and thus make it an easy target for confiscation. PARC thus emerged from the active voluntary movement that was predominant throughout the Palestinian territories during the late seventies and the beginning of eighties of the last century. PARC is the largest non-governmental agricultural organisation, and it is the biggest working in the field of integrated rural development in the Palestinian territories.
PARC was formed by a group of agronomists, agricultural engineers, pioneer farmers, and veterinarians who were active in the voluntary movement and who were convinced that forming specialised agricultural voluntary groups would serve the farmers, the Palestinian agricultural sector, and the national goal of protecting the land in a better way. PARC works in the fields of rural development, environmental protection, and women’s empowerment and offers technical assistance and support, along with extension services, to individuals and organisations that work in similar fields. In carrying out our projects and activities, we rely upon the active and broad grassroots participation of our beneficiaries and, in the process, develop the capabilities and skills of our experts and employees. Through these means, we aim to contribute significantly to the building of a Palestinian democratic and civil society.
PARC’s plans are ambitious and cover a wide range of activities. Regarding food security and sustainable agriculture, PARC continues to provide a basket of services that aim to improve food availability and accessibility and provide better nutrition for the most needy families. Food basket distribution in emergency conditions; food production from development of marginal land and home gardens; increasing land productivity; income-generating projects; and improving marketing opportunities for rural families and unemployed workers are the main domains of our work.
Regarding capacity building, our main activities are directed toward women, youth, and farmers, both individually and collectively. The encouragement of the sense of ownership of the work and services provided by the programme is considered one of the most important factors of sustainability during activity design and implementation. The programme does not introduce anything in contradiction with socio-cultural norms and attitudes. On the contrary, the interventions of this programme increase the dependence on and love for the land.
Land ownership is an important cultural value for farmers; for this reason, ownership of fertile land (one of the results of the programme) was enhanced. Constructing and rehabilitating agricultural roads has helped to strengthen a sense of ownership and has allowed farmers to develop and serve new areas. The programme seeks to enhance the values of free competition and equality between men and women, but focuses more on empowering women and improving their access to various resources.
Underlying the programme is a commitment to environmental concerns, which were given high priority during the design, implementation, and monitoring phases. The same principles are applied to the small income-generating projects that are subsidised by PARC.
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