Dearth of Egypt fuel threatens Gaza's farmlands

Gaza's ongoing electricity crisis has also worsened since the smuggling tunnels stopped operating, depriving the strip's roughly 1.7 million inhabitants of badly-needed Egyptian fuel

Dearth of Egypt fuel threatens Gaza's farmlands

World Bulletin/News Desk

The tomatoes, cucumbers and eggplants that 52-year-old Gazan farmer Hassan Abd Rabo has been growing in his 9,000-square-meter farm are becoming drier, as yellow gradually replaces green as the yet-to-be-ripe vegetable's color.

"I have to irrigate the plants every day,"Abd Rabo told the Anadolu Agency. "But this is becoming more difficult without fuel."

Abd Rabo is one of thousands of Gazan farmers struggling to tend to his land in the absence of the fuel needed for the operation of Gaza's pumping machines, used to irrigate land with water drawn from nearby wells.

A harsh Egyptian army crackdown on the smuggling tunnels linking Egypt to the Gaza Strip appears to have halted the import of Egyptian fuel into the besieged enclave. This fuel used to end up in the strip's gas stations at affordable prices for people like Abd Rabo, at around 3.5 Israeli shekels (about $1) per liter.

Now, Abd Rabo and other farmers face one of two options: they must either buy more expensive Israeli fuel – available at gas stations for double the price of its Egyptian counterpart – or stop buying fuel altogether and watch their crops wither and die.

"Israeli fuel can cost farmers hundreds of shekels, which most farmers don't have," Nizar al-Wahidi, head of soil and irrigation at Gaza's Agriculture Ministry, told the AA.

"That's why most water wells have already stopped working," he added, "along with most agricultural equipment."

Around 11 percent of Gaza's overall labor force works in agriculture. But the dearth of cheap Egyptian fuel – along with the inability of most farmers to buy costlier Israeli fuel – have pushed up prices of agricultural products in the markets of the Gaza Strip, which had already been suffering a crippling Israeli blockade since 2007.

Gaza farmer Omran Abu Saada could not find the words – besides "disastrous" – to describe the dismal state of his farm in the absence of the fuel needed for irrigation.

"The lack of [irrigation] water doesn't only hurt our land, it also breaks our hearts and impacts our sole source of income," Abu Saada lamented.

He said his inability to buy costlier Israeli fuel had led to the devastation of his land in the northern Gaza Strip.

Gaza's ongoing electricity crisis has also worsened since the smuggling tunnels stopped operating, depriving the strip's roughly 1.7 million inhabitants of badly-needed Egyptian fuel.

Electricity outages used to last eight hours in Gaza, but after Israel destroyed the territory's main power station in 2006, outages now last for up to 12 hours a day.

"When the electricity comes back, there's never any water," Gaza farmer Raafat Ebeid told the AA. "My crops are dying and there's nothing I can do about it."

Ebeid and other hapless Gazan farmers are now pinning their hopes on heavy rainfall to water their thirsty crops and offset the crisis induced by the recent disappearance of Egyptian fuel.

Last Mod: 22 Ekim 2013, 12:37
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