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Source: United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA)
22 October 2014


UNRWA SUPPORTS FARMERS IN BIDDU DURING THE OLIVE HARVEST

22 October 2014
West Bank


الأونروا تدعم المزارعين في بدّو خلال موسم قطف الزيتون


The Humanitarian Country Team (HCT) today organized a briefing tour and event in the West Bank in solidarity with Palestinian farmers affected by the West Bank Barrier during the olive harvest. The UNRWA Director of Operations in the West Bank, Felipe Sanchez, joined HCT representatives, diplomats from Belgium, France and Finland among others, and volunteers for the event.

The olive harvest is an important economic, social and cultural event for Palestinians, with nearly half of all cultivated land in the occupied Palestinian territories planted with olive trees. However, restrictions due to the Barrier and the associated Israeli permit regime hinder Palestinian farmers in Biddu and other areas from tending to their land, including during the olive harvest season. These access restrictions have resulted in a significant decline in the farmers’ production and hence, their income.

Today’s activities started with a briefing tour in al-Janiya, where the group was introduced to the problems facing farmers in that area, most significantly the impact of settler violence. The second stop was at the gate that constitutes the main entrance to the Biddu enclave, where Mr. Sanchez discussed the impact of Israeli movement and access restrictions, especially those caused by the Barrier and the associated permit regime.

“Seventy per cent of the 30,000 residents of the Biddu enclave are Palestine refugees. However, these communities were largely self-sufficient and have only been considered vulnerable by UNRWA since the construction of the Barrier, when they started facing a cumbersome and restrictive regime imposed by the Israeli authorities in order to be able to access their lands,” Mr. Sanchez said. He noted that the construction of the Barrier in the Biddu area commenced in the same year that the International Court of Justice declared that sections of the Barrier built inside the West Bank were in violation of Israel’s obligations under international law. Sanchez concluded, “If ever we needed reminding of the challenges Palestinians face in their daily lives and of what it is like for refugees to live and farm under occupation, this story of the Biddu enclave provides that reminder.”

Abu Ra’afat, a 56-year-old father of two and grandfather of nine from the village of Beit Izja in the Biddu area said, “The olive harvest is a celebration for the whole family. My grandchildren get so enthusiastic that they start pulling out the mats we use to gather the olives a month before we begin. It is a celebration because it is our income for the whole year. The mornings when we aren’t allowed in, I get so disappointed. I wish the fence wasn’t there.”

Following the tour, the group gathered in the municipal park of Biddu village where volunteers from non-governmental and United Nations organizations joined farmers to assist with the olive harvest early in the morning. The olive picking was followed by speeches by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the Palestinian Ministry of Agriculture and a community council representative, as well as exhibitions and community activities related to the olive harvest.

Click here to read more about the Biddu enclave or here to view the infographic.

BACKGROUND INFORMATION

UNRWA is a United Nations agency established by the General Assembly in 1949 and is mandated to provide assistance and protection to a population of some 5 million registered Palestine refugees. Its mission is to help Palestine refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, West Bank and the Gaza Strip to achieve their full potential in human development, pending a just solution to their plight. UNRWA’s services encompass education, health care, relief and social services, camp infrastructure and improvement, and microfinance.

Financial support to UNRWA has not kept pace with an increased demand for services caused by growing numbers of registered refugees, expanding need, and deepening poverty. As a result, the Agency's General Fund (GF), supporting UNRWA’s core activities and 97 per cent reliant on voluntary contributions, has begun each year with a large projected deficit. Currently the deficit stands at US$ 56 million.

For more information, please contact:

Christopher Gunness
UNRWA Spokesperson
Mobile:
+972 (0)54 240 2659
Office:
+972 (0)2 589 0267
c.gunness@unrwa.org(link sends e-mail)

Sami Mshasha
UNRWA Arabic Spokesperson
Mobile:
+972 (0)54 216 8295
Office:
+972 (0)2 589 0724
s.mshasha@unrwa.org(link sends e-mail)

Nader Dagher
Public Information Officer - West Bank Field Office
Mobile:
(+ 972) 54 168 719
Office:
(+ 972) 2 589 0598
n.dagher@unrwa.org


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