Middle East: GEN Palestine

Building the Foundations of GEN Palestine

Hakoritna Farm, one of the winners of the GEN Excellency Award 2014, co-hosted a meeting of GEN and Global Campus Palestine with the Palestine Technical University-Kadoorie, in order to meet the many challenges for peace and sustainability in an occupied country and to prepare the creation of GEN Palestine. Frederick Weihe reports.

From the 19th - 24th of November, a historic event happened in support of peace, cooperation, and sustainable solutions to climate change in occupied Palestine. Within the context of a project funded by the German Foreign Ministry Climate Funds, through GEN-Europe, we as Global Campus Palestine welcomed Kosha Joubert, the president of GEN--along with a group of regional and international experts in permaculture and sustainability, and nearly a hundred students--to begin building the foundations of GEN-Palestine. Our hosts were both in Tulkarem, Palestine: Hakoritna farm, and the agriculture department of Kadoorie University.

There were many informal talks and meetings, a few visits to the farm and its infrastructure for Permaculture and sustainability... and a lot of networking. The main events were a large conference at the university; and a tour of the region accompanied by Fayez Taneeb, the owner of Hakoritna farm and one of the visionaries behind its transition to an educational center for Permaculture and sustainability.

The conference brought new and previous Global Campus students together for presentations from GEN president Kosha Joubert, Fayez Taneeb, regional Permaculture experts Murad Al Kufash and Saad Dagher, Palestinian peace activist Sami Awad, and the event's principle organizer, Aida Shibli. The work of other partners, such as biogas expert Imad Al Atrash from Jordan who was unable to attend, was not forgotten. There were nearly a hundred students attending, whose knowledge and enthusiasm for sustainability was clear. Like anywhere in the world, it is exciting and inspiring to be in contact with so many creative and aware people, serving peace among human beings and cooperation with nature.

But Palestine is not just anywhere in the world. Climate change, and unsustainable soil and water management, create special challenges for agriculture in this warm, arid region. Hakoritna farm itself is in an extraordinary situation, on a narrow strip of land between the separation wall on one side; and a walled compound containing eleven Israeli chemical factories, illegally placed on Palestinian land, on the other. Fayez Taneeb, in addition to managing Hakoritna farm, is an activist committed to nonviolent resistance to the occupation. His tour of the area offered both a wide history of the conflict with its methodical confiscation of land and water resources, and personal examples of its challenges and injustices: destroyed homes and businesses; towns, farms, families, and even individual homes cut by the separation wall. The link between sustainability and peace is not more real in Palestine than it is anywhere else; the connection is simply more direct and immediate. The tour was heavy and painful at times, but made clear the urgency of our work, locally and around the world.

Global Campus Palestine, which organized these events, is an initiative of the Tamera Peace Research Center in Portugal, and has already been working for some time with Hakoritna farm and the Taneeb family. Our intention has been to support the emergence of a local network of knowledge-carriers, activists, and students, from which new projects and new experts can arise and strengthen.

Since our time in Tulkarem, the Global Campus team has been on a networking journey, meeting more activists and innovators, and getting to know more inspiring projects, drawing an ever more complete map of the initiatives responding with intelligence and heart to global climate change, and to the local political circumstances. Embedding this work in a global network is a natural and needed step, a synergy of support and knowledge. This network-building will continue. The next official meeting of GEN-Palestine is planned for November 2015, with a first Conference of GEN-Sham (Palestine, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria) envisaged for spring 2016.


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