Abu Mohannad squints in the hot sun. His hands in his pocket, he tells us about his farmland in the distance, land that he has not been able to cultivate for many years.
The land that he and his neighbors had tilled and grew up with in Qalqilya is dying before their eyes, and that death is felt deep within his soul, “I’m speaking from my heart,” he says. All he and his neighbors want is to be able to farm their land.
And as roadblocks, conflict and restrictions continue, even more land is slowly becoming inaccessible to him in the distance. The wrinkles in his face and the worry in his eyes are telling.
Pretty soon, farming in Palestine won’t be able to sustain any family in the area.
Palestinians like Abu Mohannad live for the love of the land in more than just the figurative sense—they love the land because it’s the only way they can live.
They rely so heavily on their farmland as their livelihood, that they still attempt to cultivate as much of it as possible, despite the long distances some of them now have to travel to get to it.
Some have to travel daily to and from a main road, which is where they would catch a car to their land. And roads leading to the farmlands are often blocked with large rocks and dirt so that cars can’t pass easily and farmers would have to walk along treacherous paths just to get back and forth to check on what land remained within their reach.
The trip itself takes up most of their day.
“The women would get really tired from having to harvest the land and travel back and forth across difficult terrain, carrying heavy loads of olives, just to get home,” Abu Mohannad said.
No direct access from the main road to their homes would mean hours of hauling large parcels of olives on their heads and backs along rocky footpaths.
Between the cost of seeds and supplies, the time it takes to reach the land and the cost of living, farmers aren’t equipped to travel those distances and keep the land fertile, while still making enough money to survive.
So families like Abu Mohannad’s are forced to abandon the land they can’t reach in order to invest what little money they have on the land closest to them. And this takes a big blow to their already meager income.
Like Abu Mohannad, Palestinians in rural areas try to salvage what’s left of their livelihoods as best they can. But the return on their investment is dwindling. Many can no longer survive on the little land that they can reach and care for.
With no other options for work and their farmland shrinking before their eyes, the future for rural Palestinians is bleak.
Although political strife in Palestine makes accessing farmland difficult for Palestinians who don’t have the tools or resources to travel those long distances, Islamic Relief sustainable livelihood projects are making land easier for farmers to reach. And, Islamic Relief is rehabilitating farmland that has already been destroyed so that farmers can use it again.
With the help of donors like you, we’re giving farmers the tools and resources they need to prosper again.
To help Abu Mohannad better access his land and cultivate it, Islamic Relief teams built agricultural roads that make the commute between Azzun and the main road easier. Islamic Relief teams also helped purchase tractors and other farming equipment that make the process of farming easier for Abu Mohannad and other farmers in the area.
We’re continuing to build more roads and help clear more farmland to prepare it for planting crops again, and we’ve built water cisterns to help keep the land fertile.
There are still so many acres of land that farmers are forced to watch from afar.
With your help, we can keep promoting the livelihoods of people in need like Abu Mohannad and his family. By creating the conditions that people need to help themselves, we’re giving them the seeds to grow. And their communities will also grow as a result.
Poverty is a cycle, but it doesn’t have to be unbreakable. Growth is a cycle too, and by doing our part, we can help individuals and communities sustain themselves now and well into the future.
Abu Mohannad turns to the parts of his land that are alive again. He sees hope for the future.
“I thank God first, and then Islamic Relief for fixing the land. We are very thankful for everything” Abu Mohannad clasps his hands, “my hope is that one day a road will open to the ends of our land and the land of my neighbors so that we can keep helping ourselves.”