Agriculture is extremely important in the Gaza Strip, considering the long-standing link between the Palestinian and his land, as well as the relationship between man and his land that has been passed down among generations, but this significance has declined in recent years due to a variety of factors, the most important of which are the occupation’s policy of confiscation, restrictions on farmer, and the preference of a large number of employees to work within the occupied land rather than endure the burden of agriculture.
The agricultural sector is also affected by several considerations, including the appropriate infrastructure and materials needed for agriculture such as fertilizers, water availability, and the ability to promote agricultural products in a way that encourages farmers to continue.
The area of agricultural land in the Gaza Strip reached 170,000 dunums, and it increased after the withdrawal of Israeli occupation in 2005 to 192,000 dunums, while in recent years, it has declined by 100,000 due to the acceleration of population growth, the fragmentation of agricultural ownership, and urban expansion, in addition to the effects of the occupation on agricultural lands, threats, and the narrowing of crossings for agricultural requirements and others.
The water situation also affected the agricultural sector, as the consumption of the aquifer became twice as much as it was received. This increased the threat to water security in the sector, as the aquifer is the only natural source of water, so that more than 70% of the population has to purchase water for drinking and domestic use; the matter adds a great financial burden on families.
Following the aggression of May 2021, the agricultural sector suffered direct damages estimated at 55 million dollars, according to the Ministry of Agriculture, as more than 27 thousand dunums of orchards and vegetables were damaged and more than 450 head of livestock and poultry farms were completely or partially destroyed.
Furthermore, 19 thousand workers were affected by direct damages to the active facilities, 37% of whom work in agriculture. Exports were suspended for more than a month after the aggression, and the percentages were no longer the same as last year. The largest warehouse in the northern Gaza Strip for chemicals, fertilizers, and pesticides was bombed, putting the agricultural season in Gaza in danger in addition to its bad impact on the environment and the odors emitted during its burning, which negatively affected the inhabitants of that area.
On the other hand, the shortage of energy and poor infrastructure has caused about three million cubic meters of sewage to be discharged into the Mediterranean every month. Therefore, 60% of Gaza’s beach water is polluted and unsuitable for swimming, and the coastal aquifers have been polluted for a long distance.
More than 97% of coastal groundwater is unfit for human use, according to the Palestinian Water Authority, and there are concerns about the sustainability of freshwater due to the overuse of it. As it was found that 96% of the water supply in Gaza does not meet the recommended requirements of the World Health Organization for drinking water, people are forced to buy it from unregulated private sellers.
The economic situation affected the payment of water and electricity bills to municipalities, causing those municipalities to be unable to fully perform their tasks. This was reflected in the services provided, such as waste collection, the development of water and sewage networks, and the expansion of green spaces, all of which had a negative impact on the Gaza Strip’s environmental situation.
During the May 2021 aggression on Gaza, more than 290 water and sanitation infrastructures were damaged, affecting one million and two hundred thousand Palestinians. The situation was exacerbated by local authorities’ limited capabilities and Israeli occupation restrictions on obtaining necessary materials. At least 145 schools and 17 health units are suffering from inadequate water, sanitation, and hygiene facilities, posing a particular threat in light of the global pandemic.