Jurish, West Bank (IOCC) – West Bank resident Khuloud says she will always remember the 12th of June as "Honey Day". In the early morning, her kitchen buzzed with activity as women from her village of Jurish gathered around a new extractor to help press honey from honeycomb frames collected after months of hard work tending the beehives. Swarms of village men and children crowded into the kitchen just to watch; curious to see since it was the first time this was done in their community. Each of the women received more than 19 pounds of honey for their efforts. One of the beneficiaries, Fathiyeh, commented, "It is one of the best days in my life. We never thought that we will have that much honey. I will use it to feed my children because it is healthy, and I will sell the rest."
This memorable day of honey harvesting represents efforts by IOCC and partner agencies to ensure sustainable and secure food sources for poor and vulnerable families living in isolated rural communities in the West Bank. The people of Jurish are more familiar with cultivating olives and fruits, and depend on a spring that feeds a community reservoir. However, the spring water is contaminated due to a lack of waste water networks, so the families depend on home water tanks for their precious water supplies. The IOCC Food Security Project has provided training and tools needed to help these struggling families sustain themselves through alternative agricultural activities such as beekeeping or home gardening.
Jurish is one of six villages representing more than 13,000 men, women and children selected to receive agricultural assistance. Some of the villagers were given beehives, beekeeping equipment, and ongoing practical training on how to feed and care for the bees. Others, like those living in the village of Majdal Bani Fadil, were selected to receive home gardening support and equipment. Home gardeners like 45-year-old Tamam were supplied with gardening tools and seedlings, and introduced to the use of water saving drip irrigation. "This system is very efficient, especially in our areas where we have water problems." The home gardeners also receive ongoing visits from IOCC agricultural partners to make sure that beneficiaries continue to cultivate and take care of their gardens and to inspect the plants for any diseases or other growing problems.
Everyone in Tamam's family, from her husband to their four children, is involved in the cultivation of their home garden. Together they plant and harvest new crops every four months, rotating seasonal produce such as tomatoes, cucumbers, green peppers and peas. "We benefit from cultivating our land," Tamam says. "We consume a lot from the garden. Sometimes we sell extra produce at the market and I also sometimes distribute it to my relatives."
Women's participation continues to be an essential part of this project's success. Out of the 150 household beneficiaries selected, more than 92% are female beneficiaries. The 2011 continuation of the IOCC project will provide the women with additional farming and business tools to help them reap higher crop yields that they can sell at market and improve their income. The ongoing support from IOCC was welcome news to Mariam, one of the honey farmers from Jurish, who responded, "Last year, we collected 33 pounds of honey. This year and with the increased number of hives and additional tools hopefully we can cultivate more. Many thanks for IOCC and the donors. "
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