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Wadi Qana: a green oasis to maintain for Palestinian farmers


Blessed with 17 natural springs, the valley of wadi Qana, is a beautiful valley Salfit Governorate. Up to the 1970’s, more than 50 families permanently lived in the valley, as the conditions were good for farming because of rich soils and plenty of water. In addition, most of the families of Deir Istiya, a village situated at 6 km from the wadi, cultivated land in the valley. Both field crops (beans, wheat) and fruits (oranges, lemons, guava, apricots) were cultivated and sheep roamed around.


In 1979, the valley was declared a military zone. This raised a lot of protest from the people with land and fields in the valley and the decision was frozen. Three years later, an alternative decision was taken, and the valley was declared a nature reserve, stretching from Akraba into occupied territory. This status, albeit better than a military zone, came also with many restrictions for Palestinian farmers. It was no longer allowed to modify anything: there is no electricity, and the use of inputs and machines and the planting of trees are forbidden. The occupation and the new regulations made farming difficult, risky and no longer profitable. Most families left the valley and farmers of Deir Istiya kept their lands idle. 


Israeli settlements came since 1976. Currently, nine settlements are established on the hills surrounding the valley (Immanuel, Karni shamron, Aloni shmera, Nevi manahim, Jenat shamron, Yaqir, Najim, Havat yaer, Almatan). Although the West Bank Authority says that, except for some 2 or 3 houses, all settlements are exactly at the border of the nature reserve, two settlements are actually within the boundaries of the natural reserve. Water from the wadi is pumped up to the settlements, reducing the availability of water in the valley. For years the sewage water of the settlements was drained to the valley, which affected the water quality. Only after years of protest, underground sewage pipes were constructed. This improved the situation, but leaking pipes are nowadays polluting the water. Palestinian farmers face the controls of the occupation force, the nature reserve authority and civil administration. Settlers harass the population and uproot trees.



 “It is our dream that farmers return back to the wadi”, says Nazmi Salman, former mayor and currently member of the city council of Deir Istiya, “Documents at the Deir Istiya municipality prove the land ownership and even the sign post at the entrance of the wadi acknowledges that there are farmers’ fields inside the reserve. That’s why some of the members of the Salfit Governorate farmers’ association continue farming and stay the night in some of the remaining houses”. “Me and my wife Amni stay here most of the time”, says Jihad Mansour, one of the remaining farmers in the wadi, “we grow some crops and exploit our citrus orchard. We sell the fruits along the road and in several villages and towns.  It is not easy, as we got an evacuation order from the natural reserve authority. We were also instructed to close the windows of our house and we got a warning when we painted the door”.


“We encourage families and youth to come to wadi for enjoying the landscape, to have a pick nick or just for enjoying themselves”, says Rezeq Abu Nasser, the chairman of the Salfit Governorate farmers’ organization. “During the weekend, the presence of hundreds of cars and thousands of people show that we do not give up this land.  As for myself, I keep sheep and I try to often spend the night in my family’s farm house. Our plan is to give the good example in the hope to convince others to take up field and tree crop farming and livestock keeping again. Conditions can improve by using sustainable energy sources”.


Interview with Nazmi Salmon, Member of Deir Istiya city council, part-time farmer in wadi Qana; Jihad Mansour, Farmer in wadi Qana and Rezeq Abu Nasser, chairman of the Salfit Governorate farmers’ organization, and part-time farmer in wadi Qana. (February 2018)


Note: some days after the interview, the house of Rezeq Abu Nasser was destroyed by the IDF. The mother sheep that gave birth to twins on the day of the interview (photo previous page) was killed. The orphans, with the demolished house in the background, are on the photo to the right.