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Source: Food Security Sector
22 March 2015

Report of the Rapid Qualitative
Assessment of the Livelihood Conditions
of Agricultural Producers in the Gaza Strip

December 2014


1. Background

The humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip has recently reached unprecedented scale. On 7 July 2014, the Israeli army launched a large-scale military operation in the Gaza Strip, codenamed "Protective Edge", with the stated objective of stopping Palestinian rocket firing at southern Israel, destroying the military infrastructure of armed groups. Punctuated by a short periods of lull and ceasefires, the military operation continued for seven straight weeks, with unprecedented aerial bombardment, shelling and ground incursions.

The human cost of this most recent crisis has been huge, with more than 2,350 casualties, 2,285 Palestinians killed, of whom 1,563 have been identified as civilians, including 538 children'. About half a million people were displaced at the height of the conflict and more than 11,200 injured, resulting in an increase in the number of poor, unsheltered persons, disabled, orphans, and female-headed households. At the time of writing this report, around 12,000 internally displaced people (IDPs) whose homes have been destroyed during the assault were still being sheltered in UNRWA administered collective centers across the Gaza Strip since the July-August 2014hostilities2, during which Israeli forces destroyed or damaged over 100,000 homes.

Moreover, essential infrastructure, which was already at breaking point prior to the assault, has sustained severe damage. An estimated 20,000 tons of explosives fired by the Israeli military have left many buildings and large areas of Gaza reduced to rubble, including scores of water reservoirs, wells and power stations. While some repairs have been made, extensive disruption in water supply, sanitation services, and energy supplies continues to disrupt the normalcy of life in Gaza, and seriously undermines the viability of various economic sectors.

Israeli military strikes also did not spare government and UN facilities, municipal centers, and public utilities, seriously impeding the provision of basic services to Gaza's 1.8 million inhabitants. Gaza's only power plant was directly targeted and put out of service. Damages sustained by this plant far exceed the previous damages that it had sustained in the 2008 assault, when it was also directly targeted. Unable to meet local demand through electricity purchases from Israel and Egypt, Gaza's Electricity Company is continues to implement an austerity distribution scheme, entailing rolling cycles of six hours of supply followed by 12 hours of outage, rendering it very difficult for a large swathes of economic sectors to resume normal operations and recuperate losses sustained during the 51 days of the assault, particularly since the cheap fuel smuggled from Egypt is no longer available.

The agriculture sector which has been in a steady and serious decline since 1990s, has been one of the worst hit economic sectors in the recent assault. Assessments conducted by the Palestinian Authority's (PA) Ministry of Agriculture (MoA) indicate that 30 percent of agricultural land was damaged during the assault, most of which described as being part of the most fertile and productive agricultural areas in the Gaza Strip. MoA further reports that about 40 percent of livestock in the Gaza Strip has perished in the bombardment or from lack of feed and water, when owners could not access their farms. MoA also reports substantial damages and losses in the fisheries sector, where 52 small and 2 large fishing boats were seriously damaged or destroyed. Analysis of satellite imagery from UNOSAT conducted by FAO corroborates much of these estimates: It shows that damages cover 1,039 dunums of greenhouses, 6,377 dunums of orchards (200,000 trees), 6,514 dunums cultivated with seasonal crops, and more than 16,200 dunums of arable land. The areas most affected in the agricultural sector are Khan Younis, followed by Rafah, Gaza, North Gaza, and Middle Gaza.

The current crisis comes against a backdrop of heightened vulnerability and instability. Between the second quarter of 2013 and the same quarter of 2014 the unemployment rate in the Gaza Strip increased from 27.9 percent to an astounding 44.5 percent, mainly as a result of the destruction of the tunnels with Egypt and the following collapse of the construction sector of the economy. Though illegal and largely uncontrolled, the tunnel trade provided a lifeline for besieged Gaza as they were a primary supply for food and non-food items, including much needed construction materials and agricultural inputs banned from entry into the Gaza Strip.

2. Assessment Context

The World Food Programme (WFP), on behalf of the members of the Food Security Sector (FSS), contracted Al-Sahel Company for Institutional Development and Communication to undertake an emergency food security assessment (EFSA) in the Gaza Strip in the aftermath of the 51 day Israeli assault on the territory. The EFSA was envisaged to concurrently include a rapid damages and losses assessment (DaLA) in the agricultural sector. The DaLA was intended to provide programmatic recommendations for FSS member organisations through providing information on the extent and value of damage in the agriculture sector, and identifying vulnerable groups and their needs. Both the magnitude and scale of damage and losses, and the needs of the agricultural communities and groups were not known at the time when the EFSA was commissioned.

The EFSA was planned to take place over a period of seven weeks, starting on 17 August and ending on 6 October 2014. However, due to unforeseen delays, the field work did not actually begin until 16 September 2014. By then, several assessments were underway, including a comprehensive Ministry of Agriculture (MoA) assessment of the damages and losses in the agricultural sector. With this, and the unforeseen delay in coalescing the secondary data needed to design the DaLA methodology, the FSS requested Al-Sahel to focus its efforts on undertaking the food security assessment component.

As the field work was taking place in Gaza, Al-Sahel and FAO in the West Bank were in close coordination to produce the needed baseline data and maps for undertaking the DaLA. This resulted in an impressive initial analysis of damages in agricultural area through comparative analysis of satellite imagery. By the time the first draft of the EFSA report was submitted to the FSS on 12 October 2014, however, MoA had published its report on the damages and losses in the agriculture sector, and this was being used by the PA, World Bank and several donors to design early recovery programmes and interventions. The objective of the DaLA as originally designed has thus been largely met, though independently from the EFSA.

In light of these circumstances, and based on consultations with FSS members, it was mutually agreed to change the scope of the DaLA component to focus on providing an in-depth understanding of the livelihood conditions and needs of farmers in the Gaza Strip in the aftermath of the most recent crisis. More specifically, the objectives of the assessment are the following:

This report provides the results of the assessment. In the following paragraphs, we present the methodology followed in undertaking the assessment, and we highlight the limitations of the assessment and its fmdings, as well as present the structure of the report.

3. Assessment Metodology

The assessment followed a qualitative inquiry approach which was based on rapid participatory assessment techniques, and guided by standard data collection tools that were developed at the onset of the assessment in consultation with the FSS. The following points provide a overview of the methods and tools that were used:

2. Assessment Context


For all FGDs and semi-structured interviews, the assessment team developed and used standard interview guidelines to make consistent the data collection process among the different team members visiting different areas at different times. These included a list of common suggested questions for most stakeholders being interviewed to allow for cross-checking data, and a suggested reporting format to facilitate identification of trends and triangulation during the analysis. Each team member contributed reports corresponding to the interviews and observations for which he/she was tasked. These were drawn upon in writing this report.

Map of Communities Assessed

Despite the large number of stakeholders interviewed and the significant efforts made to triangulate data collected within the framework of the this assessment, the findings emerging from this assessment cannot be generalised to the entire farmer population in the Gaza Strip. Such generalization requires a quantitative assessment based on statistical sample-to-population. The findings presented in this report, however, can be generalized to the farmers' population within farming communities consulted, and, given the number of farmers and stakeholders consulted, provided a fairly good indication of the needs of various farmer groups for programming purposes.

Efforts made by the assessment team to include the voice of women in the assessment have failed, as none of the women producers invited turned up to the focus group discussions. While this did not allow the assessment to provide a gendered analysis of the impact of the assault, informal interviews conducted with a few women producers in Rafah and Beit Lahia suggest that the general fmdings presented in this report are also very much applicable to women producers.

The extent of damage and losses reported by the farmers interviewed and consulted could not be independently verified by the assessment team due to the lack of credible baseline data on the holdings and land-use by these farmers. Hence, data on damages and losses presented in this report are largely based on self-reported estimates of damages and losses. At times, the assessment team felt that these estimates were inflated. Accordingly, data on damages and losses presented in this report should not be taken out of the assessment's context and limitations.

Additionally, the assessment was undertaken in the months of November and December, when seasonal plant production is mostly rainfed. Hence, changes in land use and farming patterns towards rain-fed agriculture highlighted in this report do not necessarily reflect a long-term impact. Discerning such impact will require undertaking a follow-up assessment of land use after the winter cultivation season is over.

4. Report Structure

The report is presented in four sections. This section provided the background to the assessment and introduced the methodology thereof in brief. Section two presents the main assessment findings, a discussion of the humanitarian crisis and its consequences on agricultural production and livelihoods, coping mechanisms, and needs as expressed by farmers interviewed themselves. Section three provides the conclusions and recommendations of the assessment. The Annex includes the list of people interviewed.

1 OCHA reports available at:
2 OCHA, Protection of Civilians Weekly Report (20 - 26 JANUARY 201 5), available at: _english.pdf

Complete document in PDF format (Requires Acrobat Reader)

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