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Cop27: Gaza date farmers struggle as bad weather hits harvest

November 9, 2022 at 4:26 pm

Palestinian farmers place the dates they collect in crates during harvest season in Deir al-Balah, Gaza on October 04, 2022 [Mustafa Hassona/Anadolu Agency]

Climate change has helped cut production of dates in the blockaded Gaza Strip almost in half this year, as unseasonal rains played havoc with spring pollination, compounded by a hot summer, the Palestinian Agriculture Ministry and farmers said, Reuters reports.

Adham Al-Basyouni, an official from the Agriculture Ministry in Gaza said production of dates this year was expected to sink to 10,000 tons from 16,000 tons in the past two years, after the unusually cold and wet spring.

“We had winter-like weather. We had changes in the climate that impacted the vitality of the pollen grains and flowers, and greatly harmed pollination,” he said.

While it can be hard to identify how climate change influences individual weather events, scientists are increasingly able to say how much more likely such events have been made by rising average global temperatures.

One recent report forecast that the East Mediterranean and Middle East will see temperatures rising nearly twice as fast as the global average, with overall warming of up to 5 degrees Celsius or more by the end of the century.

The report, prepared by The Cyprus Institute, is due to be presented at COP27, the United Nations climate summit of world leaders currently being held in Egypt. At the summit, Palestinian Prime Minister, Mohammad Shtayyeh, said the issue for Palestinians is compounded by the conflict with Israel, which limits access to natural resources.

Al-Basyouni said authorities were working on advanced new systems to help farmers cope with the impact of climate change, to keep production going and satisfy the needs of Gaza’s rapidly growing population.

READ: Gaza farmers have dates, but have nowhere to sell them

Under blockade from Israel and Egypt, the enclave has only a limited access to outside markets for its agricultural produce, and unusually hot summer weather following the wet spring added further misery for farmers.

“The whole date season was damaged,” said 33 year-old farmer, Uday Manna’, in Deir El-Balah, a town in the central Gaza Strip, whose name means “Monastery of the Dates” after its famed oasis of palm groves.

“Every year, we send dates to the West Bank; this year Deir El-Balah has not got enough dates for Deir El-Balah itself.”

The adverse weather has also affected the quality of the dates, which are the basis of a variety of traditional local sweets and pastries.

“I wait for the season to make a living,” said Zahwa Abu Qassem, 73, who has worked for decades making date paste for use in confectionary and pancakes. “This year dates are small and not nice,” she said.