Assessment of Small Ruminant
Breeders in Rural Hebron, Jericho,
Bethlehem and Ramallah
FOOD AND AGRICULTURE ORGANIZATION OF THE UNITED NATIONS
AGENCY FOR TECHNICAL COOPERATION AND DEVELOPMENT
Since December 2008, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) has been implementing project OSRO/GAZ/803/CAN, entitled “Emergency support to small ruminant farmers in the West Bank and Gaza Strip to maintain the productivity of their flocks”. Some activities were implemented in partnership with the Agency for Technical Cooperation and Development (ACTED). The USD 2.5 million project is funded by the Canadian International Development Agency, and aims to improve the livelihoods and skills of small ruminant farmers across the region.
As part of project activities, ACTED conducted an assessment of 243 small ruminant breeder households living in rural and marginalized parts of the Hebron, Jericho, Bethlehem and Ramallah governorates. This survey, which covered both rural farmer and Bedouin households, aimed to produce a comprehensive outline of the problems and vulnerabilities facing these households. As such the following areas were included: Socio-economic Information; Flock Characteristics; Animal Health; Feeding System; Herd Management and Reproduction; Meat and Dairy Production; Water Availability. Six District Level Officials from the Palestinian Ministry of Agriculture (MoA) were also trained as part of project activities (two from Hebron, two from Bethlehem and one from both Dura and Ramallah).
The survey found that Bedouin families appear to be more vulnerable than village farmer households. Although herd sizes are on average higher among Bedouin families, herd depletion rates (sale of adult females) are also higher and more Bedouin families than village farmers rely on breeding as their primary source of income. Furthermore, many Bedouin families have not had access to MoA services, nor are they connected to the Palestinian Water Authority (PWA) water network, and more than half do not own a water cistern. Overall, drought and rising input prices were identified as the two factors with the strongest negative impact on both farmer and Bedouin breeder households in these communities. Owing to the effect of these factors in particular, both Bedouin and village farmer families are currently facing a crisis, with high rates of herd depletion due to their endangered livelihood and decreasing levels of production. Despite this crisis, the survey found that a number of aspects spanning the areas of health, feeding, management, reproduction, production and water availability of these small ruminant breeder livelihoods can be improved.
Based on these findings, key recommendations for future interventions include the following:
Targeting families whose primary source of income is breeding and who are located in remote locations, in particular Bedouins;
Encouraging cultivation of drought tolerant feed crops and other alternatives to purchased feed and fodder, such as agricultural by-products or silage;
Introducing a more accurate measurement of feeding portions (weighing);
Building basic knowledge of common animal diseases which are easily avoided through better management (e.g. sanitation of sheds) and/or which can be easily cured if identified in the early stages;
Increasing cistern capacity, particularly in villages not connected to the water network through rehabilitation and expansion of water collecting surface or distributing water tanks to households where cistern rehabilitation is not feasible;
Build basic knowledge amongst breeders e.g. by conducting training in better reproduction practices, management, health (provision of basic medicines and coordination with the MoA to extend/complement vaccination services), feeding practices and shed upkeep and sanitation; and
Improve reproduction practices through a pilot project designed to show impact of practices such as checking rams for venereal diseases.
Through making these improvements future interventions can better help to ensure the strengthening and sustainability of small ruminant breeding as a reliable livelihood for vulnerable families.
Small ruminant breeding has traditionally been a key source of income and food security for thousands of West Bank inhabitants, in particular those most vulnerable and living in rural areas. Because the sector has always been a ‘safe haven’ in times of economic insecurity, more and more people in recent years have turned to small ruminant breeding as a source of family consumption after losing jobs in Israel in the wake of the second intifada. Within the livestock sector, small-scale breeders who maintain herds primarily for household consumption represent an important group, with over half of small ruminant breeders in the West Bank maintaining a heard size of under 20 heads.1 Herding remains the primary source of livelihood for the majority of these small-scale herders, on average covering 78 percent of household needs.2 Another important group is the Bedouin, who, while traditionally having larger flock sizes, have also been most affected by closures, shrinking grazing land availability and water shortages, thus making them a particularly vulnerable group.
Since 2007, the breeding sector and small ruminant breeders in particular have been facing a crisis, due to rising input prices (especially of fodder), longstanding measures that effect small ruminant herding, based on mobility and continuing drought, among other factors. This current decrease in the profitability of ‘breeding’ has had a strong negative impact on the food security and livelihood sustainability of the most vulnerable, particularly rural families and Bedouin throughout the West Bank: food insecurity in the region rose from 34 percent in 2006 to 38 percent in 2008.3 The following assessment examines in detail the situation and problems faced by 243 small ruminant breeders in rural areas of the Hebron, Jericho, Bethlehem and Ramallah Districts. Special attention is paid to more marginalized communities, such as Bedouins and small scale breeders.