OUR WORK IN OCCUPIED PALESTINIAN TERRITORY

Quick facts

  • 4.9 million people
  • 0.2% living on less than USD $1.90 / day

In the Occupied Palestinian Territory (the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip), nearly a quarter of people live below the poverty line, with their prospects for work, and a safe, healthy life severely limited by Israeli occupation.

The burden of the conflict and the ongoing occupation are causing debilitating hardship for communities. 50 percent of the population rely on aid, almost 2 million people are trapped inside Gaza with little access to the most basic services.  Millions of Palestinians are denied the right to movement and are separated from their families and opportunities. Despite these multiple challenges, Palestinians have the potential to establish a vibrant and profitable agricultural sector.

Oxfam Australia’s work in Occupied Palestinian Territory aims to improve the functioning of agricultural markets for the benefit of farmers, especially women and youth, across the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Oxfam Australia is committed to enabling the economic empowerment of women and young Palestinians.

A young girl drinks water from an Oxfam tap stand.

Photo: Iyad Al Baba/Oxfam

The blockade of Gaza

The illegal Israeli blockade has been in place for almost a decade. It has devastated Gaza’s economy, caused widespread destruction and left most people largely cut off from the outside world.

The humanitarian needs are enormous. People struggle to access clean water, food, medical care, education and to rebuild their homes. The blockade prevents most of them from leaving Gaza or trading with the outside world and markets in the West Bank, and restricts vital reconstruction material from entering.

80 percent of the population rely on humanitarian aid to survive. Many key industries have been decimated and more than 60 percent of youth are unemployed – the highest rate in the world.

Oxfam in Occupied Palestinian Territory and Israel

Oxfam has been working in the OPT and Israel since the 1950s, and established a country office in the 1980s. We work in the most vulnerable communities in Gaza, East Jerusalem, and Area C, the 61 percent of the West Bank where the government of Israel maintains full military and civil control.

In total we work with more than 60 Palestinian and Israeli partner organisations. Together we are finding ways to improve the livelihoods and rights of these communities.

West Bank/East Jerusalem

In the West Bank we advocate for the rights of communities to stay on their land, and we promote the rights of women and marginalised groups to participate in the decision-making that affects their lives. We also help olive farmers improve the quality of their produce and get it to markets, and support herders to care for their animals.

In East Jerusalem we help women start small businesses, help local partners to improve school buildings, and ensure legal support to help residents stay in their city.

Gaza

Working with partners, our humanitarian and development work helps around 700,000 people in Gaza affected by the crisis and impoverished by the Israeli blockade.

We work with farmers and fishermen who are prevented from accessing their livelihoods. We supply safe water and sanitation, help local producers improve the quality of their produce and get it to market, work with local civil society to advocate for their rights, and have provided emergency aid during military escalations and floods.

Key areas of work

Economic Justice, Women’s Economic Empowerment, Private Sector Engagement

One story of change

Photo: Suhaib Jarrar, Oxfam OPTI

Grapes, after olives, are one of the most important products for the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT)’s agricultural sector. Each year 52,000 tons of grapes valued at US$41,500,000 are produced.

Despite this high volume of produce, the Israeli Occupation has resulted in enormous negative implications for the overall productivity of the grape sector. These movement and export restrictions limit growth and impact the quality of the grapes. Additionally, large qualities are smuggled from illegal Israeli settlements into the Palestinian market, which impact price and competition.

Oxfam and its local Palestinian partner PARC established a packing house in Halhul – an area in the Southern Part of the West Bank where 80 per cent of grape production is centred. The facility is managed in partnership with three local cooperatives, two wholesalers, and the North Hebron Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

This new public/private partnership serves farmers, traders, and consumers. Yousef Abu Rayyan a farmer from Halhul said, “Before the packing house, farmers used to take their grapes to the nearby central market in the early morning to sell them. We paid 10% commission, we used unhealthy and old packing cartoons with different sizes and shapes, and we rarely got a good price; after all it’s an auction, and we did not know the basics of price setting.”

Yousef participated in training on new post-harvest practices and was supported with irrigation networks and plastic boxes to transfer the grapes to the packinghouse. “We have been exposed to new information that has helped us improved the quality of our products, we get a better and fixed price from the packinghouse…and we deliver grapes at a more convenient time during the day, no more waking up on dawn! We sell grapes by the kilo, and no longer need to pay a 10% commission. The price I got this year was very good, I wouldn’t have dreamed of it, and I feel more connected to my land.”

Key projects

Connecting Palestinian small-scale farmers to markets

The Australian Middle East NGO Cooperation Agreement (AMENCA) program – phase 3 aims to connect small-scale Palestinian farmers, especially women and youth, to agricultural markets to increase their income. Oxfam Australia is working with farmers to support them to become market ready, promoting skills development and business incubation for young people, and improving access to agricultural roads and water systems. This $5.1 million, six-year project (2016-2021) is an Australian aid initiative implemented by Oxfam Australia on behalf of the Australian Government.