Sustainability of Socio-economic and Food Security Atlas (SE-FSA)

Place: palestine, Asia
Food consumption patterns: diet, environment, society, economy and health Food consumption patterns: diet, environment, society, economy and health
Total Budget: € 46.606,35 | Period: From January 2009 To March 2010


The SE-FSA aimed at shedding the light on food production patterns and availability, access to food and income sources, family income and expenditure as well as nutritional factors with the ultimate objective to highlight pockets of food insecurity and vulnerability to ease the targeting of humanitarian aid. It comes in response to the Palestinian needs to understand the status and causes behind high levels of food insecurity among Palestinian households in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip territory. The relevant indicators used in the atlas were adopted by ARIJ in other projects such as the consultancy done for CHF entitled:””, the Food Security Information System, Assessing the Status of Environment in the oPt, and the locality Profiles and Needs Assessment in the West Bank Governorates project, so as to have the opportunity to continuously update the range of info utilized while building the Atlas. The World Food Program (project partner) on the other hand, utilized the list of indicators continuously in their field surveys aiming at assessing the status of food security levels in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip every year since the year 2009. 


Applied Research Institute - Jerusalem (ARIJ ) - Palestine

Lead applicant

Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation (AECID) - Spain

Initiative partner

The Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation (AECID) is the main management body for Spanish cooperation, which combats poverty and works for sustainable human development. Its Charter states that the agency was created to foster full development, conceived as a fundamental human right, with the fight against poverty as part of the process for building this right. To this end, the Agency follows the guidelines of the 4th Master Plan, in accordance with the international agenda of the Millennium Development Goals and with a focus on three crosscutting axes: gender perspective, environmental quality and respect for cultural diversity.

World Food Programme - Palestine

Initiative partner

To build local counterparts’ capacity in developing a Food Security Support Decision system (FSSSD) in the country

i. Maintain core geographical minimum datasets at country level and set a common standard.
ii. Improve access to secondary geographical data and in particular to global data sets at a country level.
iii. Improve visibility of geographical datasets available in the country for donors and management.
iv. Facilitate the undertaking of food security risk analysis, i.e. CFSVA done by World Food Programme.
v. Improve the targeting of humanitarian aid interventions and support the implementation of the PRDP

Description of the local context in brief based on outputs of the project as following:

The occupied Palestinian territory (oPt) is divided between two physically separated areas known as the “West Bank” (including East Jerusalem) and the “Gaza Strip” with a total area of 5,661 km2 and 362 km2, respectively .

The average population density is approximately 414 capita/km2 in the West Bank, while the population density  in the Gaza Strip is 3,905 capita/km2. The West Bank has a total population of 2.38 million inhabitants irregularly distributed across its eleven governorates (Jericho, Ramallah, Bethlehem, Hebron, Jerusalem, Nablus, Qalqiliya, Tulkarm, Jenin, Tubas and Salfit). The Gaza Strip is a coastal territory at the eastern extreme of the Mediterranean Sea on the edge of the Sinai Desert. Hosting a population of 1.42 million, it is composed of five governorates (North Gaza, Gaza City, Deir al Balah, Khan Yunis and Rafah).

Of the 6 million dunum  land area in the oPt, about 1.82 million dunums (30.6%) are cultivated; 1.6 million dunums are rain-fed and about 270 thousand dunums irrigated. Of the cultivated area in the oPt, 91.4% is in the West Bank and 8.4% in the Gaza Strip4. Forested area covers less than 1.5 % of the Palestinian land area.

The oPt is characterized by a great variation in topography, soil, and lithology. This variation is directly reflected on the climate in the oPt and the distribution and diversification of agricultural patterns, from irrigated agriculture in the Jordan Valley (the lowest area in the world) to rain fed farming in the mountains. The West Bank is divided into four major geo-morphological parts: Central Highlands, Semi-coastal region, Eastern Slopes region and the Jordan Valley. The mountainous area of the West Bank serves as the main rainfall collection and replenishment zone for the underground water aquifers. Many drainage and valley systems are spread in and around the above mentioned four parts. In the north of the Gaza Strip there are four ridges with different elevations ranging between 20 to 90 m above Sea Level . Active dunes can be found near the coast especially in the southern part between Deir el Balah and Rafah. Soils in the oPt are formed due to several conditions including climate, physical weathering from wind and water, and other topographic materials, geology, and vegetation.

The east Mediterranean region in general and the oPt in particular has been subjected to various disasters. Wars, political conflicts, climatic change, drought and earthquakes are the primary disasters that have affected the area. While the oPt is small in terms of area and population and does not contain resources of crucial importance to the world’s economy, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict brings about immense international interest in the media, politics and diplomacy; in part related to their proximity to oil reserves in other countries of the Middle East . Indeed, much more than the geographical and agro-ecological characteristics of the oPt, it is the specificities of the historical and political context that set the parameters of the current economic, social and food security situation of the population.

The conflict and more precisely the restrictions on mobility of persons and goods imposed by Israel are the main basic causes of food insecurity in the oPt. They have consequences on: (i) food availability; (ii) economic access to food; and (iii) food utilization.

To understand the status and causes behind Palestinian food insecurity, key features need to be addressed with a focus on economic access and political situation in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip including: livelihood crisis, population growth rates and dependency ratio, unemployment and poverty, food prices and consumer price index, cash income decline and consumers' purchasing power, food expenditures, production capacity, education and malnutrition, environmental and food quality, market access and others.

Economic growth in the oPt has markedly decreased due to the conflict, mainly through controls imposed by Israel on the entry and exit of goods, services and people; impediments to construction and infrastructure investment in the oPt; the expansion of Israeli settlements and associated violence; and the direct destruction of houses, crops, animals, water and sanitation infrastructure by the Israeli Army . The Gaza Strip is currently undergoing a de-development due to Israeli military interventions and the blockade of the Gaza Strip.  Since the blockade is in place, livelihoods of the Gaza population is devastated due to restrictions on the import of industrial, agricultural and construction materials, the suspension of nearly all exports, a reduction in the amounts of industrial fuel, domestic fuel and cooking gas allowed entry. Loss of business and jobs means greater pressure on the working age people to cope with their dependents and on the society.  The unemployment among Palestinians reached up to 25.5% in oPt (Gaza Strip alone reached 36%) in the second quarter of the year 20098. According to the World Bank, the GDP per capita was just above US$1,000 in 2008, compared to US$1,610 in 1999.

Population growth is also a major threat to oPt's capacity for sustainable development whereby it is placing additional pressures on the environment.  With a rapid demographic growth at approximately 3% annual growth , the Palestinian population is projected to double in approximately 20 years . Increasing population contributes to oPt's chronic lack of space due to Israeli land restrictions. Already, urban densities are reaching critical levels in many areas, particularly Gaza, exacerbating social, economical and environmental degradation and subsequent humanitarian concerns regarding the scarcity and provision of basic services.

The reliance on food imports and the lack of domestic agricultural growth expose the Palestinians to the volatility of international markets, as well as the restrictions imposed by Israel. Only 60% of main food items  are produced locally, where less than 5% of the cereals and pulses consumed in the oPt are locally produced. Lack of access over land and natural resources has denied the Palestinian people their rights to regulate land use and to manage the utilization of their own resources. In the West Bank, in the second half of 2008, up to 10,000 farmers reported difficulties in accessing their agricultural land and almost 60% attributed these problems to movement restrictions . Some of the most productive areas are under Israel control (such as Area C) and thus not accessible for cultivation due to Israeli Army military laws. In the Gaza Strip, agriculture is distressed due to the export ban and unavailability and high cost of inputs and equipment. In addition, the Agricultural Sector is also particularly affected by recent climatic shocks including low rainfall precipitation, irregular distribution pattern of rainwater and rainfall delay, hence causing failure of crop growth.

Palestinians are increasingly being forced to rely on negative coping mechanisms. The combination of decreased incomes and increased food prices has forced the poorer households to change their food consumption patterns. Socio Economic and Food Security Survey Report (SEFSec) reported that 42% of the household surveyed in the West Bank reducing their food expenditures, forcing these families to buy less food items and to substitute normal foods with cheaper / less desirable items.  In the Gaza Strip, for those who have decreased their total expenditure, in its vast majority it has been food expenditure (96%) thus impacting the quantity and quality of their daily food intake . Palestinian population faces great challenges to overcome the poverty and food insecurity levels they are trapped in. Even if the coping mechanisms are reversible (e.g. switching to less preferred but cheaper food, decreasing the amount of food consumed, foregoing health or education expenditures, and purchasing food on credit), they can have a permanent cost on lives and livelihoods, through poorer health and nutritional status. 

Significant factors cause land degradation in the oPt; including soil erosion, desertification, salinization and soil contamination. Soil erosion is predominant in regions of intensive field cultivation and in the mountainous regions of the West Bank where in addition to steeps slopes, soils are subjected to heavy rainfall and overgrazing by goats and sheep. Decreasing bio-diversity is another major issue facing oPt stemming from the widespread environmental degradation that has occurred over the last decades. Related to water resources, current extraction from groundwater is exceeding recharge and ground water levels are decreasing rapidly. Similar conditions exist for the Jordan River where upstream extraction has dramatically reduced flow. Limited access to water in the oPt due to Israeli control has profound social and economic impacts and accordingly on Palestinian food security.

Exposure to natural disasters such as drought and frost is also threatening the future capacity for development in the oPt. Evidence suggests that climate change will lead to greater extremes in weather patterns. Given that approximately 94% of cultivated land is rain fed in the oPt, climate changes are also likely to have significant impact on Palestinian agriculture.

The fragmentation of the Palestinian landscape has had a significant environmental and social impact. Overall, 38% of total land area in the West Bank is reserved by the Government of Israel for settlements, military use, checkpoints or road closures (28%), and the West Bank Barrier (10%) . The intrusive route of the West Bank Barrier through 8 of the 11 West Bank governorates isolates the farms, greenhouses, grazing lands and water resources of thousands of farmers. Almost 15% of West Bank agricultural land will be lost once the construction of the Barrier is completed. In the Gaza Strip, the Buffer Zone (24% of Gaza Strip (87 km square)) and the Cast Lead Operation (December 08/January 09) the Buffer Zone and the Cast Lead Operation (December 08/January 09) have led to the destruction of natural areas as well as Palestinian assets (e.g. trees, irrigation systems, crops).

As a result of the current context in the oPt,  38% of the  Palestinian households are found food insecure, reaching up to 1.6 million . These include 625,200 food insecure persons in the West Bank (25 %) and 973,600 in the Gaza Strip (61%). In addition, 269,300 persons in the West Bank (11%) and 218,950 persons in the Gaza Strip (16%) are vulnerable to food insecurity. Food Insecure people are highly sensitive to socio-economic, political, and global shocks and highly dependent on assistance.

Food insecure households are unable to secure sufficient income to meet their essential food and non-food requirements due to the lack of income-earning possibilities as a result of Israel’s restrictions to movement of goods and people, and artificially inflated food and transport costs. The high food and fuel prices internationally and the last war with Israel in the Gaza Strip have compounded this situation .

The long imposed Israeli restrictions and matrix of control on Palestinian way of life utterly represent the basic causes of food insecurity in the oPt. Suspensions of the various restrictions are the only ways to resume the peace talks with Israel and address related issues. Meanwhile, increased emphasis should be given to interventions that take into account both protection issues and livelihood support, with the view not only to prevent food insecurity to worsen but also to avoid that vulnerable households become food insecure. It is hoped that the finding from the Food Security Atlas will help decision makers to take the adequate policy responses.

a) The final output of the study will be the publication and dissemination (print, web and/or CD rom ) of the atlas (FSA) in order to render available an invaluable overview of oPt socio-economic and vulnerability context through a series of explanatory maps complemented by narrative text boxes.

b) The overall process leading up to the FSA will establish and build capacity of local bodies (PA, NGOs) to undertake updates of this type of study in the future. It will also serve WFP policy commitment to reduce hunger and food insecurity in oPt and build local capacity to respond to need, by providing the necessary expertise, as well as financial support and technical knowledge to carry out this survey.

c) The link and collaboration that will be created between WFP and the selected counterparts, throughout the period of the FSA project, will reinforce the status and institutional presence of WFP among the international community in oPt, offer standardized geographical products and dissemination mechanism across countries.

d) In addition, the study will allow WFP, related UN agencies, partners and donors to understand the synergy between socio-economic, environmental and food security indicators and how these factors interact in order to establish varying level of vulnerability to hazards and support the prioritization and targeting of humanitarian and development oriented interventions.

Beneficiaries are relevant staksholders including governmental organizations (mainly planning, agriculture, health, social affairs, educaiton, environment, water authority), non-governmental organization (national and international mainly World Food Programme), universities, and researchers.

the project was a partenrship between ARIJ and WFP.

ARIJ team was formulated from 6 employees specialized in food security , GIS and RS, statistical analysis, agronomy, economy.

WFP was formualted from 2 employees specialized in food security and survyes.

This is in addition to a team of leaders who managed the project form the two partner sides.

The managers were:

from WFP: Mr. Sallah Al Laham

from ARIJ: Mrs. Roubina Ghattas

Main obsatacles were as following:

Collection of secondary data at governorate level, since most of relevant data was at national level.

Correlation between statistics and spatial data. In most cases the data was available in the form of secondary type of statistics that was difficult to transform into spatial data and then the production of maps.

The avialability of data over a series of time, in most cases the data was available at certain time intervanl but updated data for the most recent two years was the most difficult to collect.

ARIJ's partnership with local GOs and NGOs has help a lot in the colelction phase for the data. ARIJ's experience in GIS and RS and the availability of arieal photos and satellite images over a long series of time helped in overcomign the obstacles.

However the obsatcle did not change the aim of the project for ex. the data that wasn't flexible to be presented as a map was delivered as charts implanted in the maps.


The atlas provided valuable information in both type and geographical distribution.

The environmental and biodiversity aspect was described in a way that would give a provision for food security from a Palestinian context. The provided maps presented diverse type of info related to environemnt including aridity index, average annual rainfall, temperature, soil type, forests, rangeland and protected areas cover, water supply, and consumption, wastewater and solid waste, water networks, water vulnerabiltiy index,

A following project was inititated based on results of this Atlas, specifically the FSIS (Food Security Information System for Tubas, Bethlehem, and Hebron Governorates (FSIS)). - included in this network.

The data gathered during the preparation of the Atlas showed that there is a gap in understanding the food security and causes behind it at locality and houshold level. Most of the surveys done in this field covered their inputs at a governroate or even at national level, accordingly ARIJ took the inititative to understand and assess food security levels and coping strategies at household/locality levels.

The database and the spatial data was transfered from ARIJ station to WFP station to help and support and build on their system in future projects.

To disseminate the resutls of the project, several workshops were conducted for related stakeholders. A final ceremony was also done and the Atlas as a publicaiton (as a book and CD) was dissemiated to participated institutions.

A training for WFP team was conducted itneh field of GIS and map production.