Keeping the land alive (August/September 2017)
As the summer months unfold we become more and more aware of the weather, the growing season and how important the land is – even if for us that means a garden, allotment or a few pots outside the door. As things grow around us we, with the wealth at our disposal, enjoy the rich variety of fruits and vegetables that appear in our shops.
It’s a good time to remember that all of that ‘abundant life’ that the earth provides, carries with it the stories of people’s lives, experience, work and participation in the world.
In this newsletter, as we approach the celebration of harvest, I want to share one of the ‘people’s lives’ stories from our Commitment for Life partners in the West Bank. Commitment for Life, is a programme of the United Reformed Church that we have supported as a church for many years. With our Harvest celebrations this year we’ll be marking it’s 25th anniversary.
So, here’s a story from some of the work we’ve supported through our Commitment for Life giving.
A story, from Commitment For Life partner, PARC - Keeping the land alive
“This is my land, it was bare. Now I am working on it and gaining from it. PARC has helped us, who own our land, to make it fruitful.” So says Alam Hussein, a farmer in Bizzaryah, North West, West Bank.
Like many other farmers in the region Alam lost good farming land when the separation wall, dividing Palestine from Israel, was built. Christian Aid partner PARC, now renamed the Palestine Agricultural Development Association, has worked in the area for over 20 years and understand the needs of the people living and working there. They knew they needed to come up with ideas to increase production and develop new markets.
Alam is part of a land development programme, set up by PARC, where reclaimed land can now be used for planting fruit trees.
This programme allows the farmers to get a better income from unusable rocky land. The rocks are initially cleared by hand, broken down and used to create retaining walls. A fence then marks the area to be worked. Once service roads are widened, tractors can be brought in to help plough the earth ready for planting the fruit trees. Varieties such as olive, almond, prunes or apricot are chosen to give a good yield and produce cash crops.
Whilst the trees are maturing, this takes at least five years, vegetables, cereals or animal feed are grown in between.
PARC are particularly keen that each step of the process is transparent. Once a contract between PARC and the farmer is signed, the farmer will receive help with planning and execution. He will pay a small percentage of the costs himself because PARC feels this encourages self esteem and empowerment.
In support of all this planting, underground water cisterns are also built. The water collects in the pan and then passes through a simple sand filter into the dugout cistern. This water can be used in the dry season to irrigate the tree saplings and the vegetables.
This programme has already led to a million fruit trees being planted, and they are now planting towards the second million.
The fruit trees are a symbol of a hopeful and productive future.