Signs of hope

By EA Carole, Northern West Bank

Fayez’ story is about personal survival and a firm belief that he can create something of value to give hope to his community, his family and himself. He says of his farm “It was beyond love: it was an addiction.”

The wall and the chemical factory just outside Tulkarem [Photo: EAPPI/Carole]

About ten minutes’ drive from the centre of Tulkarem, close to a chemical factory, and metres away from the separation barrier and its observation towers, is the organic farm of Fayez Taneeb. He has survived decades of life in the area, quietly resisting industrial development and speaking about his farm as a project that has become an obsession.

Fayez’ story

In 1984, Fayez inherited the land that was to become his great love for the rest of his life. He dug irrigation channels and planted crops in an area that has always been one of the most fertile in the region.

In the same year, the Israelis announced their intention to use land near Fayez’ farm as a sports area and training ground for their military in Tulkarem. The access roads were often blocked and some of the irrigation pipes cut, so Fayez and his wife were obliged to water their crops by hand. After a series of skirmishes and discussions, and a legal action, the soldiers moved on, leaving Fayez free to farm without obstacles until a chemical factory that had originally been set up in Netanya, but asked to close because of health risks to the local population, moved next door.

 This harassment of Fayez and his family broke Article 4 of the 1977 second additional protocol to the Geneva conventions of 1949, guaranteeing security for all those not directly participating in hostilities.

Although the prevailing wind in Tulkarem generally blows pollution from the factory away from the farm, for just under a month each year this is reversed. Fayez protected his crops from the chemical pollution for this period, and, to check all was well, he and his wife ate the vegetables.

Fayez’ life’s work

And so it has continued. The farm has developed along organic lines and Fayez has been thrifty and creative in the techniques he has introduced. Self sufficiency and a sense of his local community have become a philosophy

“Life is like a ship,” he says. “We’re all on board. No one has the right to risk sinking the ship so that everyone dies.”

The farm

Fayez identified three basic commodities we need in order to survive – energy, food and water – and took us through his approach to each of them.

Energy Fayez took us over to two large plastic dustbins that produce liquid fertiliser from manure and water. Some is syphoned off and reacts with sunlight to provide gas, which he enthusiastically showed us, explaining how it could be used to provide energy for the farm. The rest is used to fertilise his crops.

Creating Energy [Photo: EAPPI/Carole]

Food Close by were some covered shelves where peppers, chillies, tomatoes and more crops were spread out to dry in the sun. Ventilation kills bacteria, while insect traps protect them from larger predators. Fayez produces sundried vegetables to augment his fresh organic produce. He is critical of GM products and has a rudimentary seed bank, samples of which he exchanges with horticulturalists across the world.

Sundried vegetables [Photo: EAPPI/Carole]

Water Water collected in rain butts is piped through the farm and stored during the winter months for use in the summer. In a tank in one of his plastic tunnels swim a number of fish, producing yet another source of manure.

 Fish helping to fertilise the vegetables [Photo: EAPPI/Carole]

Conclusion

The farm has become well known. Fayez hosts delegations from different parts of the world and takes local students for work experience. He sells produce locally but is always aware that something may put the whole venture at risk again. His philosophy has grown beyond his farm itself. Above his office hangs this sign:

Water, energy and food are freely available for all humankind when we no longer follow the laws of capital but rather the logic of nature.

Fayez’ philosophy [Photo: EAPPI/Carole]

Anyone interested in learning more about the farm can find details on Facebook under its name, Hakoritna. Fayez welcomes support and even hosts agricultural students wanting work placements here.