The Cultures of Resistance Network supports the efforts of the Palestinian people in their ongoing struggle for their human rights, including their right to enjoy food security and access to natural resources. The policies imposed upon the West Bank and Gaza Strip by the Israeli occupation are destroying farms and livelihoods, cutting off access to fresh water, and devastating the economy. According to joint reports from the World Food Program, the Food and Agriculture Organization, and the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), the direct results of the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian Territories are poverty, the inability to access basic services, and widespread malnutrition, especially among children.
The CoR Network has been engaged with the issues of food security and resource rights in the Palestinian Territories over the past few years. While the ultimate solution to the economic hardship and food insecurity in Palestine must be an end to the unjust occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, we celebrate the work of civil society groups that provide empowering local solutions to the hardships that that Palestinian people face every day. One such group is the Palestinian Agricultural Relief Committee (PARC). PARC works with over 160,000 marginalized Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank to promote sustainable development and build greater food security for households, communities, and the Territories as a whole. Through its Urban Agriculture Program, PARC provides women heads of households with fruit and vegetable seeds and small livestock, and teaches women to use scraps of land between buildings, on rooftops, and in backyards for gardening and animal husbandry. This project helps women strengthen the nutritional status of their families and decrease their dependency on imported foods, and improves their positions within their households.
Another group that is doing inspiring work around the issue of food security in the area is Bustan, which focuses on the Bedouin community. While many Bedouin people live within the borders of the Israeli state as Arab citizens of Israel, they too face government policies that disenfranchise and impoverish their communities. Within the Israeli region of the Negev 180,000 Bedouins live in unrecognized villages and towns in conditions inferior to other Israeli citizens and without access to basic services. Although they have a long tradition as agriculturalists and herders, Bedouins have experienced a shift in their status from food producers to consumers as they were urbanized and settled by Israeli government policies. This loss of their traditional livelihoods undermines food security and community identity for the Bedouin people.
Bustan, an Israeli NGO, brings both Arab and Jewish Israelis together to work for fair resource allocation and social and environmental justice in the Negev. One of their important projects is the Qasr A Sir Eco Khan, an initiative that is renovating a small area in the center of a Bedouin village to serve as a multi-functional facility for eco-tourism, community gatherings, and education. Situated on a historical caravan road and among the ruins of an ancient fortress, the center is being built by local residents who are trained over a period of six months in eco-friendly mud and adobe construction—skills which they pass along to other residents of the community and tourists who visit the site. The project helps the community reconnect with their culture and history and develop a sense of ownership over their livelihoods, while creating a common space for Arab and Jewish residents to come together and celebrate peaceful coexistence.
You can join the efforts of local groups like PARC and Bustan as they empower people living under discriminatory policies and occupation to improve their lives and livelihoods. Here are some ways to get involved:
• Join Grassroots International’s campaign demanding that financial company TIAA-CREF divest from Elbit Systems Ltd., the defense contractor that is damaging Palestinian access to fresh water and land through its construction of Israel’s separation wall.
• Check out Bustan’s participatory development projects in the Negev and find out how you can experience it for yourself.