Mohammed Ismail

Written by

March 18, 2020


Last week my colleague Ramez and I went to visit Al Mawassi – a local cooperative in the south of Gaza.

Cooperatives such as Al Mawassi are incredibly important in Gaza. With the highest unemployment rate in the world (54%), finding and sustaining opportunities for work is critical.

Across Gaza, cooperatives bring together locals, typically farmers, fisherfolk and family businesses. The organisation then helps to advocate for their interests and represent them across wider society.

Al Mawassi: Difficult beginnings

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A local fisherman at Al Mawassi collective.

Al Mawassi collective is named after the land on which it is based – an arable area located near the sea – and brings together local fisherfolk and farmers.

Alhamdulillah, the land is fertile and great for planting all kinds of vegetables and plants. What’s more, as it’s near the sea, it encourages residents to go fishing on their stand-up paddle-boards.

However, with the ongoing conflict in the region, there are multiple challenges

Following the Arab-Israeli war in 1967, the area was isolated from the remaining Gaza Strip. Many settlements were built in the area.

Residents of Al Mawassi were unable to move in and out of the area without a permit. It was extremely hard for students to reach their colleges and schools and for goods and products to be imported.

Houses were in poor condition and people were not able to fix them. The Al Mawassi cooperative coordinated with the Red Cross and a number of UN agencies to bring building material to the area when they were constructing their headquarters.

In terms of development, the area was left behind for more than 30 years. Today, the infrastructure is dilapidated and electricity services are lacking.

During our visit to the cooperative, we discussed the situation of the fisherfolk in the area.

Fishing: A difficult job in Gaza

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Islamic Relief staff with local fisherfolk and their fishing boats at Al Mawassi.

The head of the cooperative Mr. Azzam told us that the fisherfolk always lose their fishing nets due to the flow of the tide.

As they’re near the borders between Egypt, Israel and Gaza, they can’t go out to bring them back. Marine boats shoot at them if they enter their waters in order to keep people away from their borders.

Another big problem the fisherfolk face is keeping their fish fresh.

Local fisherfolk mostly head out to sea during sunset hours. A company of four to five fishing boats work together for about six to eight hours, setting their nets where fish gather and collecting them. They repeat the process several times each evening.

Each time they collect the net from the water, they take out the fish and put them in boxes. They then cover the boxes in ice to store the fish properly until they finish collecting their nets and go back to the beach. Obviously, the fish needs to remain fresh until it is sold to the public.

The Al Mawassi Cooperative secured funding and bought an ice-making machine. It also installed solar panels on the roof of their headquarters to help produce electricity to run the machine.

Alhamdulillah, the cooperative now sells the ice at about half the price of private vendors. However, the machine can only produce a limited amount.

This means, that on the days when fisherfolk produce more fish than expected, they can’t preserve the fish, and are forced to sell it at a low price.

This affects more than 700 fisherfolk in Al Mawassi, who need two to three tons of ice a day.

Members of the cooperative complained about lack of infrastructure, inadequate housing and high levels of poverty. However, despite all the challenges, they appear to be optimistic.

Perhaps they trust that the sea will give them what they need. They remain patient, hoping that their rizq (income) will come from Allah (SWT).

Insha’Allah.

 

Find out more about our work across the Palestinian Territories, where we continue to offer life-saving support.

By donating towards our Gaza Appeal, you can provide critical support and help save lives.

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