Al Mezan Center for Human Rights published a new fact sheet entitled “The State of the Agriculture Sector under the Electricity Crisis,” which details the effects of the long-standing electricity crisis on the agricultural sector in the Gaza Strip. Gaza’s sole power plant came to a halt in mid-April 2017. The commencement of its operation thus with very limited capacity has had a devastating effect on the agricultural sector, which has rapidly deteriorated due to extended periods of electricity blackouts.
The agriculture sector provides job opportunities for about 23% of the overall workforce in the Gaza Strip, and thousands of families depend on their work in agriculture and related trade as their only source of income. With other economic sectors devastated due to the 10-year closure and blockade of Gaza, agriculture has become crucial in providing economic dignity and food security. Access to food and the right to work are basic human rights.
Al Mezan’s latest fact sheet tracks the decline of electricity supply since the Palestinian Energy and Natural Resources Authority (PENRA) announced the cessation of the plant’s operations on 16 April 2017, which came shortly after the decision of the Israeli cabinet to reduce electricity provided to Gaza by 35% on 11 June 2017. Only 140 of the needed 500 megawatts are available for Gaza’s consumption and come from Gaza’s power plant and Israel and Egypt’s electricity supply lines.
Consequences of power shortage manifest themselves in all domains of the agricultural sector, including crop and livestock production and fisheries – all are heavily dependent on a steady electricity supply. The agricultural production plummeted, as farmers and fishermen struggled to store and market their produce. The ramifications of the power crisis took their toll on economic and social rights of people in Gaza, where the economy sustained heavy losses,, living standards deteriorated, and cost of living rose.
The outstanding electricity crisis affects every Palestinian living in Gaza, with those most vulnerable - the poor – being hit the hardest. With the cost of food rising in parallel with production costs, many cannot afford the basic food items, which brings many families to the brink of survival. With the stifling blockade, the protracted occupation and the PA’s recently imposed tough policies towards Gaza, people’s economic situation is shaped by unsurmountable restrictions.
Al Mezan’s factsheet contains a list of recommendations, as well as a call for action addressed to the international community, who must honor their obligations towards Gaza as an occupied territory, push for an end to the electricity crisis, and put pressure on Israeli authorities to end the blockade and cease all violations of human rights. The United Nations is also called upon to encourage international investments in the agricultural sector in order to help stimulate the reconstruction process and support the Palestinian economy. Local parties are reminded of the need to keep this sector outside of any political disputes, to find immediate solutions to the prolonged electricity crisis, and to come up with innovative proposals that will stabilize Gaza’s electricity supply.