Issues Home About Contact Us Issue 30 - July 2024 عربى
Member News

Gaza Women Agriprenuers amid the Humanitarian Crisis

The Gaza Urban & Peri-Urban Agriculture Platform (GUPAP), a Palestinian agricultural NGO, was initiated in 2013 in the Gaza Strip. It aims to strengthen urban agroecological practices among family farming communities, empower enterprising urban women farmers in agribusiness (agriprenuers) both socially and economically, and influence the local food systems and urban agroecological policies. GUPAP is also member of 15 local/national, regional, and international networks, including HIC and HLRN, complementing each other to monitor food systems, food policies and the human right to food, and conduct advocacy for vulnerable farmers.

Within its scope, GUPAP has facilitated the formation of the Urban Women Agriculture Forum (UWAF), which acts as an empowering community space for economic resilience, capacity sharing, rights advocacy and policy influence. UWAF has a community structure organized around three main gatherings: plant production, animal production, and food processing, and 12 technical sub-groups. UWAF has reached around 500 women agribusiness owners out of the 3,000 women agribusiness owners in the Gaza Strip.

Deeply affected by Israel’s colonization of Palestine, especially since 1948, and under Israeli occupation since 1967, the Gaza Strip has recently become a ground of grave human suffering, death and trauma. Since the start of the Israeli war on the Gaza Strip on 7 October 2023, tens of thousands of people have been killed; hundreds of thousands have repeated fled their homes and lands and suffered from human-engineered famine. Amid this crisis, the United Nations focuses on urgent relief response, providing emergency food assistance, water, and needed non-food items, and is struggling to deliver them to hard-to-reach Gaza governorates. The UN’s most-recent food-security analysis has re-classification the situation as imminent famine, as 1.1 million people, half of Gaza, experience catastrophic food insecurity.

The agricultural sector has been severely impacted. Experts say Israel`s aggression on Gaza`s ecosystems has made the area unlivable, amounting to ecocide. Since October 2023, Israel has destroyed 23% of Gaza`s greenhouses and almost 50% of the tree crops in Gaza are wiped out. In addition to the tremendous human cost, initial estimates put losses at tens of billions of dollars.

Due to its scale, duration and significant negative impact on small and micro-women agribusinesses, the ongoing Israeli aggression represented a considerable challenge at community level. Based on the participatory initial rapid assessment of needs and damage of women-led small and micro enterprises (SMEs) based on active online communication (direct calls and WhatsApp groups) and limited interactions on the ground with 300 UWAF members, women-led small and micro family farming are the most-vulnerable affected category operating in the weakened local food system.

Under the war conditions, they have undergone unprecedented loss of family members and productive material. It is now essential to preserve remaining local seeds and appeal to bring agricultural inputs from Egypt. The only bank for local seeds, east of Khan Yunis, has been damaged. However, family farmers still have some seeds.

Women-led SMEs operate from homes or displaced places and are considered the sole income source for securing their family needs. They are now indispensable to recovery of the local food system. However, they suffer from a lack of agri-inputs and raw materials, water, tools, fodder, vaccines, gas stoves, seedlings, and fuel. If they are to be found at all, they are sold at exorbitant prices. Also, a debilitating factor is the high cost of renting temporary places/stores for SMEs to operate due to the bombardment of living places.

Women agriprenuers have been forced to evacuate and displaced in tiny, inadequate shelters several times. Their priority has been to secure water, food, clothes and hygiene materials, etc.; however, they have voluntarily participated in community interventions, offer their houses in Rafah and the middle areas of the Gaza Strip as secure places to ease communication and facilitate community processes. They have acted as a local community network to enable local and international NGOs delivering humanitarian aid to these tiny shelters, especially in the middle area and the south. They also have facilitated two community-led kitchens at two tiny shelters (each shelter serves around 250 persons, of whom 70% are women and children) in cooperation with international NGOs.

Plant-producing and food-processing UWAF members have furthermore contributed to securing fresh and processed food items for displaced people who are on the brink of starvation as food aid is inadequate and mostly inaccessible. GUPAP’s initial participatory assessment results have shown the following:

  • 20% of SMEs are still operating, but need of acceleration support (inputs, advice & marketing)
  • 30% of SMEs still exist, but have lost their production capacity; they still need reactivation and rehabilitation support (inputs, raw materials and marketing).
  • 50% have been destroyed or partially damaged and need rehabilitation and reconstruction support such as rehabilitation and reconstruction materials, and agri-inputs.

Efforts have been made to come up with practical emergency strategies that align with the Core Humanitarian Standard and Survivor and Community-led Crisis Response, given the scenarios of the ongoing aggression and elusive ceasefire. UWAF members highly recommend the Cash Support Strategy as a flexible, straightforward, and immediate short-term response to enable women agriprenuers to secure in-kind support for their small and micro agribusiness, thus, supporting women-led SMEs in the Gaza Strip in recovering operations. This could enhance local agricultural practices that contribute to the survival of these women-led SMEs and strengthening local food-system resilience.

Since then, GUPAP has also raised urban women farmers` voices and emphasized the women-led SME community challenges at national, regional, and international meetings/discussions, especially those aimed at sharing, discussing, and conversing about revisioning the local agriculture sector and potential scenarios of the Reconstruction Plan and the right of the community to join in formulating this plan, considering the challenges and risks of the local urban food system.

See testimonies of women Agriprenuers in Gaza:

Voices in Gaza for first-hand experiences of members of UWAF

GUPAP`s winning the Zayed Sustainability Prize - COP28 in Food Category.

GUPAP website 


Image on the front page: GUPAP logo. Photo on this page: GUPAP group photo upon winning the LUSH Spring Prize in 2021. Source: GUPAP.


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