Enhancing Market-Oriented Urban Agriculture in the Gaza Strip: Networking for policy change and resilience

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The protracted conflict and the Israeli-imposed blockade have had a devastating effect on Gaza’s economy. The movement of people and goods is severely restricted
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  OXFAM CASE STUDY OCTOBER 2016 Gaza Urban and Peri-urban Agriculture Platform (GUPAP) workshop on 6 September 2015. Photo: Hana Saleh ENHANCING MARKET-ORIENTED URBAN AGRICULTURE IN THE GAZA STRIP Networking for policy change and resilience The protracted conflict and the Israeli-imposed blockade have had a devastating effect on Gaza’s economy. The movement of people and goods is severely restricted; 90 percent of factories and workshops have had to close; 80 percent of people are in need of aid; and exports recently fell to less than two percent. Oxfam is working as one of 50 member organizations of the Gaza Urban and Peri-urban Agricultural Platform (GUPAP) to increase support for small-scale producers and processors. This case study details how GUPAP will contribute to the planning processes of the Ministry of Agriculture and the Ministry of National Economy – with the aim of strengthening livelihoods, boosting the economy and improving food security and quality for consumers across Gaza. www.oxfam.org   1 INTRODUCTION Given the specific context of Gaza, where economic opportunities are very limited, the project team has reached the conclusion that any market-oriented urban agriculture programme should focus on promoting a ‘resilient local development approach’ and making the best use of what is locally available. Markets for agricultural production play an important role in this, despite the imposed import and export restrictions that severely limit their development. Greater networking, coordination and exchange with relevant stakeholders are needed to shift the focus away from emergency aid only towards the integration of long-term economic development policies and initiatives, despite the difficult context. The three-year project Facilitating Urban and Peri-urban Agriculture in Gaza is funded by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), and implemented by Oxfam and the RUAF Foundation. 1  The project is implemented with the aim to increase income for men and women engaged in small-scale urban and peri-urban agriculture in the Gaza Strip. The project’s inter-related specific objectives (outcomes) revolve around service supply markets, extension services and enabling policy and governance frameworks. Under the project’s outcomes, new and revised policy strategies and measures for urban agriculture aimed at supplying the local market are expected to be developed and taken up by local and national government institutions. This aspect of the project is being implemented in close coordination with the Gaza Urban and Peri-urban Agriculture Platform (GUPAP) and its 50 member organizations – key stakeholders who represent various sectors including government, the private sector, civil society, universities and agricultural funding institutions. 2 WHAT HAS OXFAM LEARNED? This project, and our role with GUPAP to enhance policy strategies, draw on learning from Oxfam’s wider experience in Gaza. It aims to move from emergency aid to longer-term, more sustainable development – and to enhance livelihoods and food security in a fragile context.  ã  There is increasing recognition among Gazan stakeholders of the importance of urban agriculture approaches and practices. ã  The challenges in strictly following the ‘Markets for the Poor’ (M4P) 2  approach, where systemic changes are to be pursued as much as possible by facilitating market and business dynamics, have to be adapted to the very specific, socially and economically challenging 2  context of the Gaza Strip. ã  A significant shift in the project strategy – from direct implementer to the role of a facilitator who stimulates the market – has already taken place. It has been noticed and understood that external interventions are by nature artificial and may influence the system either positively (develop) or negatively (distortion). ã  In the context of Gaza, the concept of food security relates very much to economic access to food, rather than to food availability. ã  There is an increasing recognition and call from Palestinian professionals, organizations and ordinary people for more emphasis on economically sustainable and resilient development activities. ã  Past agricultural projects implemented by international and local stakeholders have mainly focused on production support projects; however, these have always limited direct intervention to a small group of beneficiaries. This proposed urban agriculture programme will have a strong focus on local processing and local marketing as a key entry point in the value chain. 3 OXFAM’S WORK WITHIN GUPAP In Gaza, the Urban and Peri-urban Agriculture (UPA) development project is aligned with a broader vision of supporting a more resilient agricultural sector that seeks to contribute to Gaza being more food secure, less dependent and vulnerable, and with its population having improved access to sustainable jobs and income, improved livelihoods and a safer environment. This will be achieved by the following strategies: 1. Increasing local production and the competitiveness of local products for a local market. 2. Reducing dependency on external imports and energy, and promoting and strengthening Gaza-based service supply and agricultural training and extension. 3. Facilitating a more favourable institutional and policy environment in which agricultural value chains operate and are sustained. The Gaza Urban and Peri-urban Agriculture Platform (GUPAP) is seen as the main platform through which the policy objectives of the project can be implemented: it fulfils the need for a multi-stakeholder, interactive and participatory forum that brings together all key actors involved in the development of a resilient Palestinian agricultural sector in the Gaza Strip. However, the institutionalization of the GUPAP still needs to be reinforced. 3  Box 1: GUPAP vision ‘The GUPAP seeks to see longer-term development and institutionalization of the platform to actively and successfully network and share knowledge, information, experiences and cooperation (locally, regionally and internationally) on urban and peri-urban agriculture to develop an agricultural sector featuring sovereignty and resilience among diverse stakeholders (government and non-governmental organizations, private sector institutions, research institutions, agricultural funding institutions and influential players in agricultural value chains) in the Gaza Strip. All members of the platform are committed to the comprehensive development vision of it, which is recognized locally, regionally and internationally as an interactive and participatory space to facilitate strategic planning, advice, lobbying and advocacy for policies of urban and peri-urban agriculture.’ GUPAP workshop, 6 September 2015 STRATEGIC ROLE OF GUPAP The GUPAP will facilitate the coordination, networking and organization of market actors (for joint processing and marketing, for building consumer trust and for better service provision) and of policy and institutional actors (to work on a more enabling framework for the urban agriculture market sector as well as improved access to productive resources). By the end of the project in June 2017, the GUPAP seeks to be institutionalized – and if relevant, to officially register with the competent authorities– in a way that enables its continued contribution to strengthening the resilience of the agricultural sector in the Gaza Strip. In order to do so, GUPAP will seek to mobilize funding, capacity and potential to continue its activities effectively while taking into account the principles of transparency, participation and community ownership. GUPAP LOBBYING AND  ADVOCACY STRATEGY In a GUPAP workshop on 6 September 2015, participants discussed policy review and lobbying/advocacy. As the key priority, members agreed to focus on strategies of both the Ministry of Agriculture (MoA) –especially the upcoming three-year mid-term plan 2016–2018 – and the Ministry of National Economy (MoNE), in particular the new Consumer Protection Department three-year plan. The MoA and MoNE strategies are seen to be directly related to the project objectives and GUPAP vision. Clear policy gaps and opportunities – to which GUPAP could respond – have been identified for both ministries. It was therefore agreed that GUPAP will support MoA and MoNE in their planning processes and will make use of project strategies related to dairy and date value chain development and processing, cold storage, Participatory Technology Development (PTD) extension, and 4
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