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Working towards food sovereignty in Palestine | Palestine News

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Ramallah, occupied West Bank – The Om Sleiman farm in the village of Bil’in is part of a burgeoning movement of agroecology and community supported agriculture (CSA) in the West Bank.

Depending on the season, the farm grows broccoli, ginger, turmeric, kale and watermelon, as well as other fruits and vegetables. It claims to be the only farm in the West Bank to grow organic sweet potatoes.

Currently on four dunums (4000sqm) of village land, the farm’s co-founders Mohab Alami and Yara Duwani work with volunteers and Palestinian trainees in the field of agroecology to promote principles of co-creation, efficiency, resilience and shared economy.

Alami said the Om Sleiman founders chose Bil’in as their location to continue its tradition of non-violent resistance.

The village has lost a large tract of land to a nearby Israeli settlement. Its peaceful and partially successful struggle to regain that land through demonstrations and via the courts has been widely cited as a model of resilience.

“I think farming and existing in this area is non-violent resistance,” Alami told Al Jazeera.





Relatives of Palestinian agroecology trainees forage for organic produce at Om Sleiman (Tessa Fox/ Al Jazeera)

Agroecology is an approach to farming which takes into consideration and tries to minimise environmental impacts.

In the West Bank, agroecology farms and initiatives are established by Palestinians, for Palestinians.

One aim of the ventures is to reclaim food sovereignty and move away from Israeli produce, which is ubiquitous in local markets.

According to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics, in 2003 45 percent of the Palestinian population were working in agriculture – including forestry and fishing. In 2017 the percentage had dropped to 14 percent.

Within the West Bank specifically, data shows 30 percent of the population were working in agriculture in 2013, though only 16 percent remained in the industry in 2017.

Alami explained the reasons for such a dramatic decrease were several. From constant demolition orders handed down by Israel, to harassment by Israeli settlers, and Israel’s control over water resources.

Raya Ziada, co-founder of Manjala, an agroecology NGO which aims to educate Palestinians in sustainable food production, believes it is important for Palestinians not to lose touch with their agricultural heritage.

“We [Palestinians] were farmers. We used to produce our own food,” she told Al Jazeera.

“[Now] we’re just trying to reconnect with who we are, with our identity as Palestinians.”

Chemical-free products

The production of chemical-free fruit and vegetables is at the heart of agroecology’s ethos.

In the majority of markets across the West Bank, Israeli fruit and vegetables dominate, though for years the amount of chemicals used in growing the produce has been among the highest in the world.

As far back as 2012, Israel had the highest concentration of pesticides in food out of the 34 member countries of the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development.

The Israel Union for Environmental Defense are actively drafting a bill to reduce pesticide exposure in Israel, as it states the country is far behind acceptable global standards.

Tareq Abulaban, Director General of Marketing at the Palestinian Ministry of Agriculture, said that Israeli fresh fruits and vegetables are produced primarily to be exported to markets in the European Union, with the rejected produce sometimes ending up in the Palestinian market.

“Grades not hitting the export markets, are marketed in the Israeli market,” he said in a statement. “Rejected quality levels including those with excess of chemicals are dumped into the Palestinian market at low prices.

“The Palestinian market pays double price for that dumping. On the one hand, this affects the health of Palestinians, and on the other hand, it negatively harms the Palestinian produce in the domestic market,” he said.

Solidarity economy

The solidarity economy is one of the 10 elements of agroecology and is extremely important for Palestinian food sovereignty – that being, Palestinians buying Palestinian produce.

Manjala’s Ziada believes the easiest way of controlling a nation is by controlling its food production.

“If we want to have a liberation project, the base is to start producing our own food,” she said, adding that Palestinians feel a sense of pride eating Palestinian grown food.

The ready supply of cheap Israeli fruit and vegetables also distorts market prices, making it harder for small-scale Palestinian producers to compete at markets across the West Bank.

As a result, Palestinian farmers who grow organic produce or follow agroecology principles often sell via specialist organisations.

Om Sleiman farm operates a weekly box delivery system, providing a variety of seasonal produce to Palestinian families.

Depending on the quantity, customers pay approximately 900 ILS ($250) at the start of each season.

 Adel, meaning fair in English, is a Palestinian group that connects agroecology producers with consumers.

Working with over 450 producers, Adel trains farmers in agroecology, particularly those with land at risk of confiscation, and manages marketing and distribution.

The organisation set up its own weekly markets in Beit Jala and Ramallah, as well as a store next to Qalandia checkpoint that is open daily.





Customers pick Palestinian, egroecology produce at the Adel fair trade market in Ramallah [Tessa Fox/ Al Jazeera]

Reema Younis, a manager at Adel, believes consumers buy Palestinian agroecology produce for various reasons.

“They want to buy their health and be away from chemicals, and others buy because they believe in the solidarity economy,” Younis told Al Jazeera.

“We believe that Palestinians deserve to eat these products … free of chemicals and preservatives,” Younis said.

‘Collective experience’

Manjala’s Ziada described the work of agroecology organisations in Palestinian communities as a “collective experience taking place.”

She used the Arabic word Aouna, which means help, though relates to social connections in agricultural heritage and how people would help each other during harvest and plantation.

One activity the groups use to spread knowledge about sustainable practices is making seed balls, which is especially effective with the younger generation.

Farming camps are also organised by Manjala in the hope that participants connect farming with the larger social and political context surrounding agriculture.

“When you talk about land and soil, it’s important … especially for the Palestinians to feel that connection, because at the end of the day, the conflict [and occupation] is about land,” Ziada said.

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Tiger-Cats claim victory against the Argos to maintain home record on Labour Day

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The Hamilton Tiger-Cats were at their devastating best against the Toronto Argonauts when the two locked horns on Labour Day at the Tim Hortons Field.

Just like with previous Labour Day fixtures, the Ticats produced a stellar performance with Dane Evans throwing two touchdown passes while Frankie Williams scored on a 67-yard punt return as they claimed a 32-19 victory on Monday. With this vital win, the Ticats extended their Labour Day home record to 7-0.

For players and fans of the Tiger-Cats, games on Labour Day are a lot more special and losing is something the Ticats aren’t used to.

“We know the fans are going to be behind us, we know Toronto is going to be chippy, we know it’s going to be sunny; we know it’s going to be windy. Everything that happened (Monday) we prepared for. There is something extremely special about Tim Hortons Field on Labour Day . . . you can feel it in the air, I can’t put it into words,” said Evans.

After the COVID-19 induced hiatus, the CFL is back in full action and fans can now bet on their favourite teams and just like with online slots Canada, real money can be won. Hamilton (2-2) recorded its second straight win to move into a tie atop the CFL East Division standings with Montreal Alouettes (2-2). Also, the Ticats lead the overall Labour Day series with Toronto 36-13-1.

In the sun-drenched gathering of 15,000—the maximum allowed under Ontario government COVID-19 protocols—the fans loved every minute of this feisty game. After all, this was the Ticats first home game in 659 days, since their 36-16 East Division final win over Edmonton in November 2019.

The contest between the Ticats and Argos was certainly not bereft of emotions, typical of a Labour Day fixture, as it ended with an on-field melee. But the Argos often found themselves on the wrong end of the decisions with several penalty calls and most of the game’s explosive plays.

Hamilton quarterback Evans completed 21-of-29 passing for 248 yards and the two touchdowns while Toronto’s make-shift quarterback Arbuckle completed 18-of-32 attempts for 207 yards. Arbuckle also made a touchdown and two interceptions before eventually being substituted by McLeod Bethel-Thompson.

Bethel-Thompson made an eight-yard TD pass to wide receiver Eric Rogers late in the final quarter of the game.

“They got after us a bit . . . we didn’t block, or pass protect well,” said Ryan Dinwiddie, rookie head coach of the Argos in a post-match interview. “They just kicked our butts; we’ve got to come back and be a better team next week.”

The Labour Day contest was the first of four fixtures this year between Toronto and Hamilton. The two teams would face off again on Friday at BMO Field. Afterwards, the Tim Hortons Field will play host to the Argonauts again on Oct. 11 with the regular-season finale scheduled for Nov. 12 in Toronto.

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Roughriders looking to bounce back after Labor Day defeat

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In what an unusual feeling for the Saskatchewan Roughriders, they would now need to dust themselves up after a 23-8 loss to the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in what was a Labor Day Classic showdown in front of a full capacity crowd at Mosaic stadium.

Craig Dickenson, head coach of the Riders, witnessed his team with an unbeaten record get utterly dominated by a more superior team from Winnipeg. Now, he has got a lot of work on his hands getting his team back to winning ways as they visit the Banjo Bowl next.

“We’re going to see what we’re made of now…the jury’s out,” said Dickenson.

Dan Clark, who played centre for the Riders expressed his disappointment in losing what was “the biggest game of the year”.

 “If you lose every other game, you don’t want to lose that one. We’ve just got to take the next step,” said Clark in a report. “There are 12 steps to the Grey Cup left and it’s just about taking that next step and focusing on what Saturday will bring.”

With their first defeat to Winnipeg, the Riders (3-1) now rank second place in the CFL’s West Division, trailing the Bombers by one victory (4-1). However, the Riders will have the chance to even the season series during their trip to Winnipeg this Saturday. With the CFL heating up, fans can now enjoy online sports betting Canada as they look forward to their team’s victory.

The Rider’s offensive line will once again have a busy time dealing with the Blue Bombers’ defence.

Quarterback Cody Fajardo, who played one of the best games of his career two weeks earlier, had quite a stinker against the Bombers in the Labour Day Classic—which is the most anticipated game for Rider fans.

Fajardo had a 59 per cent completion percentage which wasn’t quite indicative of what the actual figure was considering he was at 50 per cent before going on a late drive in the final quarter with the Bombers already becoming laid back just to protect the win.

Fajardo also registered a personal worst when he threw three interceptions, but in all fairness, he was always swarmed by the Bomber’s defence.

While Fajardo has claimed responsibility for the loss and letting his teammates down, many would be curious to see how the team fares in their next game and with less than a week of preparation.

Dickenson is confident that his team would improve during their rematch in the 17th edition of the Banjo Bowl in Winnipeg. The only challenge now would be the loss of home advantage and dealing with the noisy home crowd, he added.

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Canadian report reveals spike in food-related litter during pandemic

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TORONTO — Restaurants’ inability to offer their usual dine-in service during much of 2020 may explain why an unusually high amount of food-related litter was found across the country, a new report says.

The Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup (GCSC) is an annual program in which volunteers are encouraged to clean up green spaces and other natural areas.

Last year, single-use food and beverage containers made up 26.6 per cent of waste collected through the program – nearly twice as high a percentage as in 2019, before the pandemic.

“We suspect the change may be one of the many implications of COVID-19, including more people ordering restaurant takeaway and consuming more individually packaged foods,” GCSC spokesperson Julia Wakeling said in a press release.

While food- and beverage-related litter accounted for a greater percentage of waste uncovered by GCSC than in the past, it wasn’t the single largest category of items picked up through the program last year.

That dubious honour goes to cigarette butts and other smoking-related paraphernalia, which comprised nearly 29 per cent of all items collected. There were more than 83,000 cigarette butts among the 42,000 kilograms of waste found and clean up last year.

So-called “tiny trash” – little pieces of plastic and foam – also accounted for a sizeable share of the waste, making up 26.8 per cent of the total haul.

In addition to smoking-related items and tiny trash, the main pieces of litter removed by GCSC volunteers last year included nearly 22,000 food wrappers, more than 17,500 pieces of paper, more than 13,000 bottle caps and more than 10,000 beverage cans.

Discarded face masks and other forms of personal protective equipment were also detected and cleaned up, although not tallied in their own category.  PPE waste has been repeatedly cited as a concern by environmental advocates during the pandemic; a robin in Chilliwack, B.C. is the earliest known example of an animal that died due to coronavirus-related litter.

The GCSC is an annual program organized by Ocean Wise and the World Wildlife Fund Canada. Its operations were disrupted by the pandemic as well; only 15,000 volunteers took part in the program last year, versus 85,000 in 2019, due to delays and public health restrictions making large group clean-ups impossible.

Still, there was GCSC participation from every province and the Northwest Territories in 2020. Nearly half of the volunteers who took part were based in B.C., where the program began in 1994.

Data from past GCSC reports was used as part of the research backing Canada’s ban on certain single-use plastic items, which is scheduled to take effect by the end of 2021.

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