As a technical branch of the Agricultural Relief Committee, The Arab Agronomists committee developed an interest in agricultural instruction. From its inception as a specialized organization, the Agricultural Relief Committee was concerned with agricultural instruction that deals with different technical and developmental Palestinian agricultural issues. The Palestinian agricultural sector suffers from many serious problems. The first and most important is the lack of specialized associations and organizations that can deal with technical issues in the agricultural sector. Moreover, there are no organizations concerned with providing different instructional hygienic services for the Palestinian farmer. These specialized organizations are needed to improve and elevate the agricultural sector and rid it of many problems it has been suffering from. The availability of these organizations can also enhance the economic role of the agricultural sector because it is considered the mainstay of Palestinian national income. Taking these issues into consideration, the Arab Agronomists' Committee concentrated its efforts on agricultural, rural, and animal husbandry instruction as a priority.
Botanical instruction was and still is one of the main programs of the committee. It is carried out by a group of professional agricultural engineers to achieve the objectives and the policies of the committee. These objectives came into being as a result of a need to achieve nutritional security for rural families. Through acquired experience and continuing development the Arab Agronomists Committee witnessed an improvement in the projects that it executed beginning with field instruction. This is achieved through routine visits to the fields, meetings and lecturing, and completing projects in the field. The committee also carries out various pest-combating campaigns, publishes books and bulletins, instructional videotapes, and executes tree-planting campaigns. In addition, the committee carried out special programs such as encouraging the spread of organic agriculture and other programs to prevent the use of chemicals in farming. It is also concerned with protecting seeds and improving their quality. The Arab Agronomists' Committee helped in achieving a policy of steadfastness throughout the Intifada by concentrating on house economy and house gardens to provide the needs of consumers at home. This standoff policy is a response to the consecutive Israeli government policies of containment and closing off Palestinian cities and villages.
The agronomists in this committee also participated in the struggle for defending and protecting Palestinian lands as a result of the Israeli campaign for demolishing and confiscating Palestinian lands. The committee worked on the revelation of Israeli policies by reporting confiscated lands and writing about other pieces of land that were threatened with confiscation. The committee aimed at presenting these cases to court in order to help the farmers protect their land and present necessary legal testimonies to support their case.
Outstanding activities executed by the instructional program unit in the committee:
1. Agricultural instruction and other campaigns:
Agricultural instruction concentrates on specific issues concerning pest resistance and organic agriculture to reduce the use of chemicals. The instructional program unit follows an instructional policy, which aims at reducing dependency on imports and adopting natural local means of production in the first place.
2. Various Pest Combating campaigns that affect different plants in various Palestinian agricultural regions. (In the Gaza Strip, Jericho, the Jordan valley, and Jenin).
3. Observations and experiments:
For example, the use of gauze to plant tomatoes and squash, observing the planting of trees, Pampas Bee, screen for covering plastic houses, fermenting compost and using Tayyoun plants on grapes, as a biological pesticide to protect them from diseases. The instructional unit also concentrates on experiments for developing and producing local seeds through a special program.
Training farmers on hive breeding, gardening, pruning, vaccination, organic agriculture and management and containment of diseases and pests.
5. Preparing instructional bulletins and videos:
A large number of instructional bulletins about planting thyme, tomatoes, cucumber, watermelon, peacock eye disease, use of gauze, cultrate and oxide solutions, planting and caring for olive trees, grapes, nuts etc. In addition, the unit released a number of instructional videotapes about olives, safe use of pesticides, planting with use of gauze, and strawberry planting.
General Trends and objectives embraced by the Committee:
The Arab Agronomists Committee seeks, through the instructional program unit, to enhance continuous and effective Palestinian agricultural methods. This is achieved by educating farmers and making them aware of certain agricultural methods that can provide the nutritional needs of inhabitants and that require the least external inputs and are environment friendly.
-Encouraging organic planting in Palestine by working with the farmers and consumers.
-Promulgation of the method of disease management and containment and instructing farmers on how to use chemicals.
-Participating in developing the bee sector.
-Participating in developing the palm sector.
-Developing local seeds and preserving them.
-Training farmers and improving their abilities.
The activities of The Arab Agronomist Engineers Committee (organic planting) and local seeds:
Initial experiments in organic agriculture started in 1993 in one of the observation stations that belong to the committee in Jericho and the Gaza Strip, but it didn't last long. In 1997 and through coordination with governmental and civil organizations in the Arab world, the committee held workshops to acquaint and train Palestinian farmers with certain required skills for the application of organic agriculture. Egyptian experts who are specialized in organic agriculture supervised the training of farmers in Egypt where the first of these workshops took place. In 1998 the committee started working with a group of farmers in different regions to apply the organic agriculture methods and the project is on going.
Defining Organic Agriculture:
Organic agriculture is an agrarian method that aims at producing clean nutrition by using safe ways and taking into consideration the natural balance, without harming the environment. The purpose of organic agriculture is economic profit and to achieve social equality. This agrarian method considers the soil the key to successful production. Moreover, this method depends on local production incomes and it prevents the use of produced chemicals.
The reasons behind using this method by the committee:
Helping to increase the ability of Palestinian agricultural production to compete in world markets.
Organic agriculture is an important ingredient in helping to achieve safe nutrition. This is what the committee aims at.
Organic agriculture is a form of environmental cultivation that meets the objectives of the committee that encourages sustainable environmental development.
Organic agriculture opens the opportunities for external cooperation, building relations, and providing training services locally and abroad in neighboring countries.
The purpose of executing the program:
Building and organizing safe and healthy Palestinian organic agriculture and achieving social equality and economic profit that depends on local production income and preventing the depletion of agricultural resources.
Missions and activities in this domain:
On the production level (the farmer):
1. Helping to transform and create organic farms for farmers benefiting from the program.
2. Providing consistent instruction and training for farmers.
On the consumer level:
1. Releasing educational bulletins for consumers.
2. Participating in meetings and broadcasted televised interviews to spread information on organic agriculture and explaining its importance.
3. Working on establishing 'friends of organic planting' groups.
Observation of organic planting
Ingregients of fieldwork
Producing the Composts in the field consistently.
Prevention of environmental pollution (agricultural plastic etc.).
Availability of a map and a record for the farm.
Ensuring that the field is not less than 50 meters away from the main road.
The use of natural pesticides and not chemicals.
The existence of a distance between organic fields and regular fields (natural barrier, a tree or a wall).
Planting certain plants that repel damaging insects and others to attract good insects.
Covering the soil on the mulch or around the plants.
The committee's Programs and projects in the field of organic agriculture at the execution stage:
Certificates for Organic agriculture: The committee works, through its relation with the center for organic agriculture in Egypt, on sending a group of agricultural engineers for training and research and granting them certificates in organic agriculture. This project would be accomplished within the years 2003-2004. Keeping this in mind, the committee will be the first association and legal organization able to investigate and grant certificates for organic agriculture in Palestine.
The committee is currently implementing an organic agriculture project in different provinces in the (Gaza Strip and the West bank). There have been agreements signed with a number of farmers in various regions in Gaza and the West bank for applying organic agriculture in a piece of land 220 dunums in size. These dunums are distributed between different regions and provinces with the cooperation of the Italian foreign ministry and the RC association in Italy.