The importance of agriculture in Palestine and how farmers adapt to political, economic and environmental changes

The Margaret Anstee Centre held its final seminar of the term on Wednesday 15 May, with MAC Fellows Dr Mezna Qato and Dr Fadia Panosetti in conversation on the theme of Land and Agrarian Questions in Palestine.

Dr Panosetti spoke first, talking about the nature of the agrarian question in Palestine, in particular in relation to settler colonialism and land use in the West Bank. She spoke about her research which looks at how Palestinian small-scale farmers produce their food, their cultivation practices, how they organise farm labour and make a living under changing political, economic and environmental circumstances.

Dr Panosetti spoke about how Palestinian farming practices have changed in response to political and economic pressures, for example the mass planting of olive trees in the 1980s and more recently some farmers have moved to prioritise intensive techniques and focused on a single high-worth crop such as the avocado. Changes made in response to restrictions on land use as well as limited options for trade.

Dr Qato spoke about the Khaduri Agricultural School, a key institution in Palestine, established in 1929/1930, the only true state/public school run by the Palestinian Authority. The school was established with money left by a wealthy philanthropist Sir Ellis Kadoorie and has held a key role in supporting and developing agricultural practices in Palestine and in training many Palestinians who have worked in Palestine and also overseas as exported labour.

She spoke about the special history of the school, which has endured against the backdrop of conflict and change over the last century. Dr Qato also spoke about the importance of archives relating to the school’s history, which tell the story of the Palestinian peasant, the development of agricultural practice and the school as a key institution in Palestinian life in the West Bank.

The presentations were followed by a conversation on these themes and a Q&A.