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Harvesting with hope in Gaza
Thursday, September 11, 2008 :On a hot afternoon during the month of Ramadan, there are few better places to be than resting beneath the shade of an orchard of guava trees, with the scent of fresh ripening fruit wafting around you. Farmer Sa'id al-Agha sits quietly, his eyes resting on his fruit trees. "My father and my grandfather both grew up here, farming guavas, and I've lived here all my life" he says.
"This land is in my blood."
Sa'id al-Agha farms 30 dunams of guava plantations in Mawasi, in the southwestern Gaza Strip, where the loamy soil also encourages date palms and citrus trees to thrive (a dunam is the equivalent of 1,000 square meters). His Mawasi farm is a tranquil haven in Gaza, which has one of the highest population densities in the world. There are some 120 guava farms dotted around Mawasi, and between them the farmers and their families cultivate more than 2,500 dunams of guavas. August and September are the height of the Gaza guava season, and we can hear workers calling to each other as they harvest the fruit by hand.
Sa'id al-Agha employs five full time farm workers, and five of his nine sons also work on the farm. "We harvest 150 tons of guavas each year here" he says. "But for five years, from 2000 until 2005, when the Israeli settlers were still here, we just let the fruit fall from the trees to the ground, and harvested nothing." After the eruption of the second intifada, in September 2000, the Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) established checkpoints across the Gaza Strip