Strawberry Packing Rooms - Gaza Red Gold Sold in Europe

Brought up as a farmer, Imad Hamdouna, a 38-year-old father from Beit Lahia, who supports 10 family members, explains how farming is a way of life and a mean to live. Owning four acres in the north governorate of the Gaza Strip, Imad grows and distributes vegetables and fruits, especially strawberries, to local markets, and even international ones in 2011.

Highlights

  • Farmers represent 10% of the labour force in the Gaza Strip
  • The project is worth Euro 490,000 funded by the Government of Germany through its Development bank KfW and implemented by UNDP’s Programme of Assistance to the Palestinian people
  • The intervention is part of the seventh phase of the UNDP/KfW programme, which aims at providing support to Palestinian communities in the West Bank and Gaza Strip through small and medium scale social infrastructure
  • Approximately 1000 jobs were created through this intervention
  • UNDP, with funds from the Global Environment Facility (GEF/SGP), developed the capacities of 24 strawberry farmers and four cooperative staff on safe production and preservation methods. The beneficiaries received a GLOBALGAP certificate that will enable them to export their products to the EU.

Strawberries are considered as a major produce for many farmers in the Gaza Strip. But, in order to package strawberries for local and international markets and meet global standards, farmers need space.

Imad is one of the beneficiaries who were granted a strawberry packing room in Northern Gaza as part of a German funded UNDP employment generation programme. The strawberry season, which is between December and April, is an important event for Imad and his family, as well as three other workers.

“We collect fresh strawberries that are packed according to international standards. We produce four tons of strawberry per acre and export 750 kilos of them to Europe” said Imad. “The packing units improved the quality of our produce”.

The packing units increased farmers’ profits by 10% per acre. This has improved the livelihoods of many families including Imad and his son Jihad.

“We used to call strawberries Red Gold” says Jihad. “It is of great benefit to us but after the closure, it became so hard to export our products. The high prices of materials used in the planting process reduced our profit, in addition to the competition among farmers, which decreased the price of one kilo of strawberries from 25 Shekels (USD 6.7) to 10 Shekels (USD 2.7) in two days! We faced many challenges but at least we now have the packing room which revived our hope of better exporting and production of our Red Gold.”

The project came out of great necessity. Most exporting companies would have stopped dealing with strawberry farmers from Gaza as a result of not complying with the standards. Through the project, Imad and another 92 farmers were provided with a sustainable infrastructure that will facilitate and improve the care and management of crops for internal and external markets.

“We were in need of this project for a very simple reason - it is sustainable. Many organizations come and go with limited support or support for one season only. This room is long-lasting and would hopefully be there for the coming years. It taught us not to think of now, but of the future,” Imad explains.

After the strawberry season is over, Imad uses the room for other products such as cherries, which he also exports to other parts of the world. “Our products are sold on the other half of the planet thanks to this room. We never could have thought of a better thing that would contribute to the enhancement of our production and income.”