Female farmer’s hopes hang on olive harvest

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7 October 2020

Um Mohammed, 55-year-old farmer, spoke to Al Mezan about the impact of the preventive measures taken in the Gaza Strip to fight Covid-19 on her life:


“I live with my husband and children in Wadi as-Salqa town. My husband and I are farmers and we both support our family of 11 members. I lost two of my sons in Israeli attacks; Mohammed was killed in the 2014 offensive on the Gaza Strip, and Jihad was killed during an Israeli escalation in 2015. The others are six sons and two daughters; one of them got married and then divorced after having her first son. All of my children are university graduates, they studied law, physiotherapy and physics, but none of them have stable work. One of my daughters is still an undergraduate and my youngest son is in school.


Our extended family owns 13 dunums of arable land shared between my husband and his brothers. Prior to the Second Intifada, we were quite well off, we owned machines and equipment to work the land which had several wells dug for irrigation of crops and trees. However, in 2000, Israeli bulldozers leveled our land completely. Since then, we couldn’t recuperate the incurred losses; we could not afford to reinvest in new tools and equipment. At the same time, our children were growing up and their needs increasing as well. So, our only option was to plant crops that don’t require a lot of money to sustain. We grew okra, jute mallow and pumpkins. My husband and I plant and harvest these crops and then sell them in the local market.


After the spread of Covid-19, everything came to a halt. We’ve become stranded, unable to move between the areas, and the markets were closed too. Had the land not been near our residence, my home would have run out of food. Recently, I ran out of tomatoes, onions and potatoes. Thus, we’ve arranged with neighbors to help one another by exchanging available produce. The lockdown has left us without any source of income and severely strapped for cash that we started to buy from the grocer’s on credit.


I bake wheat bread at home, and we only cook meals with the available produce: okra, jute mallow and pumpkin. Our only glimmer of hope is in the upcoming olive harvest season. We hope to make up our losses by selling the harvest. I wish our voice would reach officials at the Ministry of Agriculture who can help us export our crops like other farmers do.


My son was earning some money tutoring school students in physics and math but schools have been closed since March. I wish my children would secure stable jobs to live in dignity.”