Water Harvesting Improves Crop-Related Livelihoods in Gaza Strip

SEADS Handbook Location: Chapter 7

Farmers faced a chronic shortage of irrigation water over the last few years due to an electricity shortage and increased temperatures. The quality and quantity of the aquifer water was rapidly deteriorating due to overpumping of water, excessive use of agrochemicals, seawater intrusion, and, finally, dry spells caused by climate change. This hampered not only the availability of water but also its accessibility, as did soaring electricity prices. One of the alternatives introduced is rainwater harvesting and use of rainwater for irrigation rather than use of extracted groundwater. Farmers harvest rainwater off the top of their greenhouses (GHs) and store the rainwater in ponds near their GHs. In such conditions, sustainable storage of irrigation water becomes a priority for GH farmers. Having rainwater or less-saline water gives the farmer the ability to diversify their crops and cultivate salt-sensitive vegetables such as cucumber, peas, or French beans.

The project objective was to contribute towards protecting and improving the sustainable livelihoods of 46 farming households (HHs) (276 individuals) in Abssan and Khuzaa border areas by rehabilitating irrigation ponds and the attached rainwater harvesting system (which had damaged drainage pipes), enabling the HHs to harvest around 11,000 m 3 of rainwater from GH roofs/year. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) provided conditional cash transfers totaling 3,000 Israeli new shekels (ILs)/beneficiary for the rehabilitation work.

The following results were obtained after the rehabilitation of the rainwater ponds system.

It was estimated that each m 2 of the GH roof area could harvest around 0.25 m 3 or 250 liters of water. The interviewed farmers reported that the quantity of harvested water and the irrigation cost savings varied between 41% to 60% of the total irrigation cost they had before. All interviewed tomato farmers reported that they could benefit from the rainwater harvesting for four months (December until April), and the remaining three months they depended on groundwater. Seventeen percent of the beneficiaries, those with smaller ponds, reported that they had to sometimes use the harvested rainwater to irrigate trees in open fields, as the capacity of their ponds did not allow them to store all the harvested water, especially during heavy rain days.

According to the evaluation, 97.8% of the farmers reported an increase of their tomato yield by 18–30%, due to irrigation with less-salty water, improved plant health, and the ability to extend the production cycle by one to two months.

All interviewed beneficiaries reported an improvement in tomato plant growth and color, as well as an increase in fruit size, which helped to better market their production. Previously the farmers were limited to cultivating certain types of crops due to the salinity of groundwater used for irrigation. They mainly cultivated tomatoes. However, rainwater harvesting (which is less saline) allowed the farmers to grow various crops like cucumber or French beans, diversifying their production.

International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) (2019). EcoSec post-distribution monitoring report ILOT – rehabilitation of rainwater harvesting ponds in Abssan and Khuzaa border areas of Gaza Strip. ICRC. https://seads-standards.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/04/Asia_06-ICRC-ILOT-Rehabilitation-rainwater.pdf.