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COP27: Gaza Date Farmers Struggle as Bad Weather Damages Their Crops

Climate change has reduced date production in the blockaded Gaza Strip by nearly half this year, according to the Palestinian agriculture ministry and farmers, as unseasonal rains disrupted spring pollination and were exacerbated by a hot summer.

Shivam Dwivedi
Temperatures in the East Mediterranean and Middle East to rise nearly twice as fast as the global average
Temperatures in the East Mediterranean and Middle East to rise nearly twice as fast as the global average

According to Adham Al-Basyouni, an agriculture ministry official in Gaza, date production this year is expected to fall to 10,000 tonnes from 16,000 tonnes in the previous two years due to the unusually cold and wet spring.

"We had winter-like conditions. We had climate changes that impacted the vitality of pollen grains and flowers and greatly harmed pollination," he explained. While determining how climate change influences individual weather events can be difficult, scientists are increasingly able to say how much more likely such events have become as average global temperatures have risen.

According to one recent report, temperatures in the East Mediterranean and the Middle East will rise nearly twice as fast as the global average, with overall warming of up to 5 degrees Celsius or more by the end of the century.

The Cyprus Institute's report is set to be presented at COP27, the United Nations climate summit of world leaders currently taking place in Egypt. At the summit, Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh stated that the conflict with Israel makes access to natural resources difficult for Palestinians.

According to Al-Basyouni, authorities are developing advanced new systems to assist farmers in dealing with the effects of climate change in order to keep production going and meet the needs of Gaza's rapidly growing population. Under Israeli and Egyptian blockade, the enclave has limited access to outside markets for its agricultural produce, and unusually hot summer weather following the wet spring has added to farmers' misery.

"The entire date season was ruined," said Uday Manna', 33, of Deir El-Balah, a town in central Gaza whose name means "Monastery of the Dates" after its famed oasis of palm groves. "We send dates to the West Bank every year; this year, Deir El-Balah does not have enough dates for Deir El-Balah." The bad weather has also harmed the quality of the dates, which are the foundation of many traditional local sweets and pastries.

"I wait for the season to make a living," said Zahwa Abu Qassem, 73, who has been making date paste for confectionary and pancakes for decades. "This year's dates are small and unappealing," she explained.

“While it was encouraging to see Food security as one of the key agendas of the COP27 held in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, the outcome of the discussions will be of prime importance, going forward.  The COP27 is taking place in the midst of a global food inflation crisis. As much as we would like to wish that this crisis is transitory, we have to acknowledge the fact that these sort of crises will become more recurring and much more severe unless urgent, outcome-driven, collective actions are taken. The urgency to create resilient, sustainable food systems that can withstand both ‘Black Swan’ shocks and the impact of climate change are still missing," said Sunish Jauhari, President, Vitamin Angels India.

"We still have a window of opportunity to create partnerships that can leverage innovations, traditional knowledge systems and practices to create such resilient food systems. One such promising initiative from the COP27 is the announcement of a roadmap to end deforestation by 2025 by several major food firms. We need to ensure that unlike the climate pledges, this roadmap results in timely and tangible outcomes. We have to move beyond the lip-service announcements if we are to avoid a catastrophe both in terms of food and nutritional security in the coming decades," he added.

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