Gaza Farming and Livestock Devastated by Recent War With Israel

About 15,000 sheep and goats missing since the war and half the Strip's poultry believed to have died.

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A Palestinian man takes his sheep to market on the eve of the Id al-Adha feast.
A Palestinian man takes his sheep to market on the eve of the Id al-Adha feast.Credit: AFP

The toll the summer war took on the population of Gaza has been extensively reported, but little is known about the war's effect on the Palestinian enclave's livestock.

Al-Jazeera reports that some 15,000 animals (primarily sheep and goats) are missing in the wake of the war, though it is unknown whether they were killed, died from hunger or are still wandering around somewhere.

A census in 2010 registered 73,500 sheep and goats, while only 58,000 were listed for fodder distribution following the war.

"This means that more than 15,000 animals are missing," said Ciro Fiorillo, local head of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), which has been distributing fodder and barley for all of Gaza's sheep and goats.

"We don't know if these have died because there is no fodder or water. We just know that they are no longer there, which means that something like 20 percent of the animal population has been lost," he said. "This is a huge value."

Funded by the Canadian government, the fodder distribution is aimed at sustaining the remaining livestock in the area.

In August, with Gaza still under bombardment, the FAO estimated that half of Gaza's population of poultry had died, either due to direct hits on their shelters or a lack of care because of access restrictions during the fighting.

The animals constitute the livelihood of Gaza's 3,600 herding families, which are among the poorest segments of the population. "Essentially, a lot of people have simply lost the means to survive," Fiorillo noted.

The war destroyed large swaths of Gaza's 17,000 hectares of cropland, as well its agricultural infrastructure – greenhouses, pumping facilities, irrigation systems and animal shelters. Almost all crops that had not been harvested before July were lost, when farmers fled their lands.

Even before the war, around 1.1 million, or two-thirds, of the population of Gaza were regularly receiving food assistance. That number has now increased by 700,000, according to the FOA.

According to the Palestinian Ministry of Agriculture, the losses sustained by the agricultural sector reached roughly $500m, including $350m in direct losses.

The Palestinian economy had entered into recession even before the summer, according to a recent World Bank report, with 70 percent living on less than $2 a day. The conflict only added to an already dire economic situation, Steen Lau Jorgensen, the World Bank country director for the West Bank and Gaza, told Al Jazeera.

"The recent conflict has had a severe impact on Gaza's economy in all sectors, in addition to the tragic humanitarian losses," Jorgensen said. "Within this fragile sociopolitical context, economic recovery becomes a priority."

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