30th October 2023
In light of the current war on Gaza we express our deepest concerns for all of our partners – our friends, their families and their friends – as they face constant bombardment and now, after 16 years of blockade, a ‘complete siege’ that has cut off water, fuel, energy and food. And to our partners and friends in the Occupied West Bank, who’s movement is now severely constricted by IDF checkpoints, and with farmers facing increasing settler violence during this most important time of harvest. Food is now being used as a weapon of war against all Palestinians. This is a war crime, as is the collective punishment of civilians in Gaza. We call for an immediate ceasefire to enable negotiations for a just peace that must begin with an end to occupation.
LAUNCH OF OUR 1-YEAR PROFESSIONAL DIPLOMA IN URBAN AGROECOLOGY FOR FOOD SOVEREIGNTY
(20th August 2023)
This diploma is hosted by the University College of Applied Sciences (UCAS) at their Gaza City and Khan Yunis Campuses.
Beginning on the 14th October 2023, applicants are invited to apply by the deadline of 15th September. We welcome applicants with an interest in transforming food systems as farmers, NGO practitioners, policy makers & activists. We particularly encourage applications from women and are offering 10 funded spaces for women working in food & farming who are unable to cover their tuition, and 10 spaces for women working as agricultural extensionists. A further 10 self-funded spaces will also be available.
For more information, you can view this 4-page brochure. More guidance for applicants will be available on UCAS website here.
AIMS OF THE DIPLOMA
This one-year programme offers a unique approach that combines the political economy of food systems with socially and ecologically regenerative farming practice. It aims to prepare a new generation of interdisciplinary thinkers, policy makers, practitioners, and activists capable of reimagining and transforming a food system currently dependent upon the importation of agrochemicals and industrially produced food, that denudes and pollutes Gaza’s agroecosystem and undermines its food sovereignty.
SPECIFIC OBJECTIVES OF THE PROGRAMME
This diploma presents the science, practice and movement of Urban Agroecology & Food Sovereignty and will qualify students as Urban Agroecologists. The programme’s specific objectives will result in students:
- Becoming familiar with ecological, social, and political economy perspectives while investigating contemporary problems in the global-local agrifood system.
- Becoming familiar with current research and applied concepts and applications within the field of urban agroecology and food sovereignty.
- Experiencing hands-on field exercises in baladi farming systems, students learn about ecological and social research, and build the methodological and analytical skills that are commonly used in agroecology and agri-food systems research.
- Gaining teamwork skills through working, experimenting, and learning together in groups.
- Developing critical thinking and communication skills throughout by participating in discussions and preparing written and visual materials.
INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY ANNOUNCEMENT
(8th March 2023)
We’re thrilled to announce the results of our Innovation Challenge Prize, with these four women-led and -inspired research projects each receiving $15,000 for research and development over the coming 6 months. The prize aims to champion the role of women in research – academic and practice – and to promote transdisciplinary ways of working that support urban agroecology for food sovereignty.
An important consideration was that the proposed concepts would be low-/zero-carbon and reduce dependence on external inputs while respecting and honouring the knowledge and skills of smallholder farmers across Gaza. We were particularly interested to find out:
what innovations emerge when they are co-designed by women to respond to the needs of women.
The projects receiving funding are:
- High protein feed for poultry & fish from black fly larvae. Led by Mona Abu Batikh from Al-Azhar University.
- Greywater Treatment units for household garden production. Led by Rana Idais from the Islamic University
- Promoting soil health – testing different organic ‘wastes’ and types of composting systems. Led by Wafaa Adel Jamil Hassan (UWAF)
- Managing nematodes using biological controls. Led by Fadwa Al-Ghalban from the University College of Applied Sciences & Technology.
Meanwhile we thank all those who applied, and wholeheartedly congratulate these incredible women-led and -inspired teams.
HACKATHON FOR THE PARTICIPATORY INNOVATION CHALLENGE
(16th November 2022)
Invitation to researchers at Gaza universities and civil society specialists to participate with women producers, in our ‘hackathon’ to co-develop innovations that respond to food systems challenges facing Gaza in ways that promote agroecology for food sovereignty. Emerging problem-solving teams will have an opportunity to submit a proposal. Four winning teams will be selected and awarded $15,000 for research and development over a 6-month period.
WHEN & WHERE
The hackathon will be at UCASTI, 9th Floor at UCAS Gaza City campus on Wednesday 16th November @ 9.30-3 pm. You will have the opportunity to meet practitioner-researchers who are members of the Urban Women’s Agripreneur Forum (UWAF) to explore and discuss the co-development of either technical or social innovations based on your area of specialization.
Emerging from a series of focus group discussions with members of UWAF (see below) the following categories are broadly outlined as areas of SOCIAL AND/OR TECHNICAL innovation with the potential to optimize food and farming systems for food sovereignty in Gaza.
- Farming systems (ie. Bio-fertilizers, and natural pest & disease management)
- Food (ie. processing equipment, carbon-based compostable packaging)
- Water (ie grey and storm water management/capture, desalination devices)
- Energy (ie. solid and organic wastes to energy, renewables, processing equipment)
- Social organization (ie. market or seed systems, value-based solidarity labelling, production and/or waste management co-operatives)
Together, we will explore what innovations look like when they are designed by women-led teams in response to the needs of women. To this end, researchers will meet, hear from and join forces with UWAF members, forming teams around their specific questions and challenges. We particularly encourage the participation of early career researchers to bring new energy and thinking.
If you are interested in participating, and developing a team to apply, you can find specification for the call for proposals here.
 * Transdisciplinarity involves conversations between different disciplines as well as the knowledge arising from the lived experience and cultural history of farmers, peasants, Indigenous peoples, and others. We apply the transdisciplinary research approach to critically assess and better understand issues associated with the agrifood system and to stimulate creative solutions suited to the ecological, social, and political realities of food systems under siege.
SUMMARY OF OUR FIRST 6 MONTHS (Nov 2021 – May 2022)
A process of Investigative knowledge co-creation has so far resulted in a list of potential actions to inform the work of the emerging City Food Systems (multi)Actor-Networks (CFSANs) during their detailed planning workshops planned for July with UWAF members. And as the 3 new producer forums are added to the existing fora, action research will commence on social organisation and deliberative democratic decision-making processes to optimise market access for economic participation. In a series of formative focus group discussions (FGDs) we have made inroads on mapping potential challenge-led innovation areas that may address some of the issues raised within each theme. This will help us to target the different university research groups and faculties from Gaza’s seven universities to invite to the innovation workshops in September. And, importantly, by amplifying the voices of women who have led and defined the changes they want to realise.
Here are some highlights of our work together over the past six months primarily focused on building relationships towards knowledge co-creation with women-led agri-enterprises for the development of city food system actor-networks able to tackle key issues.
Formative Focus Group Discussions (Gaza City & Khan Yunis)
Three rounds of focus group discussions (FGDs) using the World Cafe method were facilitated in both Gaza City and Khan Yunis, each lasting for half a day:
Round 1 – Women agripreneurs began by debating and framing their challenges – beginning to articulate solutions. This resulted in the establishment of 6 thematic areas to underpin our participatory action research together, with subsequent action planning and an emerging policy focus. Due to high interest these sessions were oversubscribed, with more UWAF members choosing to participate – creating rich discussions with a range of member-experts from food producers, processors, engineers and researchers.
Themes generated around ‘matters of concern’ (noting waste as a form of hazard threat and an opportunity) in answer to which more questions and solutions will continue to emerge:
- Water (what natural systems for the management of quality and availability);
- Energy (what potential for micro energy schemes utilising solid and organic wastes)
- Agricultural Inputs (what cost of dependence > diverse local seed, natural fertilisers and pest management)
- Market systems & Marketing (what types of ‘economies’ co-exist, what co-ordination & organisation for marking, market access, licenses)
- Land (access & security of border farms > thinking on urban planning & land allocation for urban commoning)
- Soil (thinking on metabolic & knowledge rifts – solutions for pests & pathogens, and co-ordinated organic waste schemes for soil fertility).
These will form the basis of research activities towards developing low-carbon solutions (including innovations) that respond to the needs of women engaged in the food system as producers, processors and marketers.
Round 2 – Brought men and young farmers into discussions on these to add their their experiences, while tables were hosted by UWAF members from round 1. In each of these sessions, participants were asked to identify key actors against each problem/solution that could be invited to form city food system actor-networks as active members.
Round 3 – Brought UWAF members together with officials from different municipal departments and ministries. Participants attending the different themes/tables (hosted and led by UWAF members) included representatives from the Ministry of Agriculture, Ministry of National Economy, respective municipalities, Palestinian Water Authority, Union of Agricultural Workers Committee (UAWC), ICRC, Universities, Khan Yunis seed bank, Palestinian Standards Institution, Ministry of Local Government, Palestinian Agricultural Relief Committee (PARC), and the Coastal Municipality Water Authority.
Other activities ongoing
These voices and the learning that continues to emerge forms the basis of policy work to increase political participation on two levels. 1) at the level of each of the CFSANs, with each theme expected to identify a policy, strategy or set of regulations that require strengthening for urban agroecology and food sovereignty, and 2) at the project level – with the team formulating policy responses to issues that address the project’s overarching goal.
Baseline survey and gender analysis – during focus groups, and with 168 survey respondents consisting of 110 UWAF members, and 58 further women working in the food system (urban, peri-urban and rural) that serve both Gaza City and Khan Yunis.
Three new producer forums created – household gardens, seed and food processors will join the three existing forums – livestock & produce, date palm and processing, and fodder production. Representatives of these forums have been elected by members to become lead members of the City Food System Actor-Networks.
City Food System Actor-Networks (CFSANs) in Gaza City and Khan Yunis convened in July & August to begin identifying and detailing their action plans and, from then on, meet quarterly to discuss progress and onward planning. Annual meetings will be convened to share successes and learning between the CFSANs.
When seen together (UWAF forums and CFSANs) the following structure has been developed:
The Urban Agroecology & Food Sovereignty diploma has been drafted and discussed with a group of critical friends (internationally and in Palestine). It has now been submitted to the Ministry of Higher Education in Ramallah for accreditation. It is hoped that we will begin teaching in February 2023. Discussions are ongoing with specialists in Palestine who can contribute to the formation and teaching of the four modules (Urban Agroecology, Food Sovereignty, Participation in Practice and Action, and Alternative Economies & Regenerative Enterprise).
[ Hanady Sufian Khalil Abu-Herbeid set up SolarFoods after learning solar drying techniques from her mother ]