Report: Occupation results in poor conditions for local farmers

PNN/ Bethlehem/

 “The local farmer products are about to extinct because of bad conditions for advertisement. We want to bring awareness of the products for the students and to help the farmers who are still producing them with the marketing, so people get knowledge about the products”, explains Dr. Omar Darissa to PNN.

By Emma Von Lego and Bettina Boye

On Tuesday, Bethlehem University held UNESCO’s Biological department’s event “exhibition for the local Agricultural products” where farmers from the local area around Bethlehem attended.

According to Omar Darissa, the event coordinator and director at UNESCO biotechnology educational center, the Palestinian farmers are suffering from various, bad conditions, which makes it very difficult being a farmer in Palestine today. One of them, is the unfair competition with the Israeli products, because the farmers can only sell their products in the West Bank.Palestinian farmers do not have the opportunity to export to Israel or other Arabic countries in the Gulf, but Israel can export to Palestine.

“They are smart. They produce grapes that come earlier compared to Palestinian grapes. Then they sell it at a high price on the palestinian market, but during the main season, when both products are here, the Israeli grapes become cheaper, so the Palestinians will lose” and he continues “So we want to tell people here: it is okay if you pay one more Shekel for the Palestinian grapes than the Israeli, you can sustain and support your people and your farmers” and in the end he added “It is also healthy because we use this organic pesticides,” he added.

Reportedly, according to authorized people, you can export to other countries under one condition from Israel, which is that 50% of your products will be sold from Israeli settlements with your label on. They want to make this deal so that Arab countries will buy their products, because they think it is from Palestine but it is with Israeli settlement products inside and they get to keep the profit.

Another struggle for the farmers is the lack of space for selling their products. Despite of the fact that the farmers do not have access to the big market in Jerusalem, where the prices are higher, the popular markets in Bethlehem, Ramallah and Hebron are also to small compared to the number of farmers. As a result of the lack of space and the desperation of the farmers, they gather along the streets of Bethlehem to sell their products. The farmers sitting in the streets in Bethlehem are often thrown away, since the authorities in Bethlehem believe it will harm the tourism of the city.

The farmer, Adla Iwsa from Al khader supports this point of view. Adla Iwsa does not sell her fruit on the streets of Bethlehem “I was lucky, because I do not want to sit on the streets”. She refuses to get humiliated by selling her products on the streets, and therefore her husband has made an arrangement with a grocery owner, to sell their goods at his shop. But sadly, many of her friends see no other opportunity than to wander around in town to find a spot for selling.

Although Adla farming is not without any difficulty. Her farm got separated by the Israeli main road number 60 which connects the settlements to Jerusalem and Bethlehem: “I am not allowed to cross the road, and therefor it will take a long time to reach my farm”. The 235 km road stretches from Beersheba to Nazareth, which is a road made only for Israelis, which gives her no other option than to walk about 10 km around the road on her own bumpy road.

“It takes about 20 minutes by car, which used to take 1 minute by food,” she told. The communication between the farmer, Adla Iwsa, and her farm, is therefor challenged because of the occupation.

“There is another farm in my family. I am not allowed to use my car to reach the farm because of security reasons. Because of this, the Israelis made a little tunnel for me under the road, where I can walk to the farm. I carrie big things back and forth like boxes of grapes, and I have to carry them by hand. This is another difficulty which is challenging and expensive” she says, and concludes that the communication between the farmer and the farm is very difficult.

It’s hard to decide if it’s worth the effort

It is when I reach the market, the prices are so low that it is not worth it due to all of the difficulties”.

The exhibition for the local Agricultural products at Bethlehem University is held to create support and awareness about local farmers and their products. Omar Darissa want the palestinians to support their local farmers especially due to the difficult situation for the farmers.
Omar Darissa ends the interview by saying “in general I am very satisfied with the event and the number of participant”.