Final Project Report -- London School of Economics and Political Science, UK, with Birzeit University, Palestine
by Dr Michael Mason and Dr Ziad Mimi

Thimar is glad to have been given permission to present this report produced in cooperation by Dr Michael Mason LSE and Dr Ziad Mimi from Birzeit University and associated researchers, Dr Mark Zeitoun, Ms Janan Mousa (project researcher for the West Bank), Ms Muna Dajani (project researcher for the Golan Heights), Dr Mohammed Khawlie (lead project researcher for southern Lebanon), Ms Sireen Abu-Jamous (project researcher for the West Bank), Mr Hussam Hussein (general project researcher).

Find Below the executive summary and a downloadable pdf version attached.



Funded by the Emirates Foundation for Philanthropy through the LSE Middle East Centre, the Transboundary Climate Security research project was undertaken by a partnership between LSE and Birzeit University, Palestine. It began in June 2012 and formally ended in June 2014.

This study investigates the climate-related vulnerabilities of agricultural communities in (post)occupation environments. Following the IPCC (2012: 5), vulnerability is understood as the propensity or predisposition to be adversely affected by hazards or stresses, where climatic stresses are mediated by social vulnerabilities. Military occupation by foreign armed forces comprises an exceptional but under-researched condition of social vulnerability to climate-related stresses. We define (post)occupation as areas with current or historically recent experience of military occupation. The three study areas reflect distinct stages of occupational control within the same regional watershed (Jordan Basin). They encompass: protracted military occupation (West Bank), annexation (Golan Heights) and post-occupation (southern Lebanon). That the coercive control regime for all three areas is, or was, administered by the Israeli state (military or civil administration) creates a governance linkage for comparative analysis. This research project is the first comparative study of climate vulnerability in conditions of (post)occupation.

While each of the three areas has distinctive characteristics, this Executive Summary highlights key project findings on climate vulnerability and rural livelihood choices under (post)occupation. These are related to the three research aims of the project.

1. To identify the main determinants of climate vulnerability for selected rural communities under (post)occupation

Across the three study areas, farmers’ perceptions within the past 10-20 years of reduced water availability, increased annual mean temperatures and a delayed rainy season corroborate scientific identification of a regional drying trend. This trend is broadly consistent with scientific projections of climate change for the Jordan Basin, which focus on a northwards shift of the Mediterranean storm track, reducing annual precipitation. Climate-driven water stresses are greatest in the Jordan Rift Valley (West Bank), where most agriculture is rainfed-dependent. The climatic viability of rainfed agriculture in the Jordan Rift Valley is threatened, during the course of this century, by the projected northwards retreat of the 200mm isohyet (an indicative ‘limit’ for rainfed agriculture).

However, climate stresses are perceived by farmers to be less important than (post)occupational conditions in determining water availability. Israeli state practices are seen as harmful to farming livelihoods, e.g. prohibition and demolition of water infrastructure, land confiscation and/or restrictions, exclusive incentives to Israeli settlers, barriers to markets. Significantly, this holds even for contexts where Israeli military authority no longer has formal effective control – the move to Israeli civilian administration in 1981 in the Golan Heights and the withdrawal of Israeli forces from southern Lebanon in 2000. In both cases significant water supply constraints are attributed to Israeli control or influence, whether as a result of legal rules (Golan Heights) of the threatened use of force across a border (southern Lebanon). This suggests a continuum of (post)occupational practices that escapes the legally self-contained idea of occupation – effective control of a foreign territory by a hostile armed force (Hague Regulations 1907, Article 42) – contained in international humanitarian law.

2. To survey mechanisms for coping with differential water availability

Over the past two to three decades across the study areas, common coping practices by farmers to differential water availability are: more rainwater harvesting, selection of drought-resistant crop types (e.g. from citrus plants to dates), reductions in livestock or cultivated land, and switching from flood to drip irrigation.

Rainwater harvesting is a popular, low-cost coping practice in the three study areas, but its increased use is prohibited by the Israeli government both in the occupied Golan Heights and the Jordan Rift Valley (in Area C). There is more scope for changing crop selection. In the Jordan Rift Valley there has been a major reduction in the Palestinian production of thirsty crops (e.g. bananas, watermelon and citrus crops) and the loss of a summer season for crops now cultivated only in the winter season (e.g. eggplants, cauliflower and green peas). Similar crop changes and reduced production were also reported in the Golan Heights and, to a lesser extent, southern Lebanon (where physical water stresses are less pronounced). Both areas favour fruit production, though with greater monocultural cultivation in the Golan Heights.

The move to drip irrigation in the occupied Golan Heights began after Israel took over in 1967, suggesting technology transfer as a consequence of occupation. Over 80% of farming households surveyed reporting a switch from flood to drip irrigation over the past 5-35 years. Drip irrigation was judged to be one of the most effective coping mechanisms by West Bank farmers in the Jordan Rift Valley, though reduced water quantity and quality mean that sometimes even drip irrigation cannot meet agricultural needs, and the cultivated area is therefore reduced. Changing irrigation type was less important to farming households in southern Lebanon (just over 10% cited this as a coping action), though post-occupation damage to agricultural assets is a seen as significantly reducing the propensity to switch irrigation type.

Temporary or permanent migration is an important coping practice in the Jordan Rift Valley and southern Lebanon, but difficult to quantify. In the Jordan Rift Valley, for example, farmers from Al Jiftlik and Al Auja have moved to less water-stressed Palestinian areas to continue agriculture and also become wage labourers in Israeli settlements. By turning Palestinian farmers into wage labour, the economic feasibility and legitimacy of occupation is deepened. According to the southern Lebanese focus group, forced migration of farming households is a significant coping practice, but there are no precise statistics on these population movements: existing estimates in rural areas are rendered more uncertain by the recent, substantial inflow of refugees from Syria.

3. To assess the adaptive implications of farming livelihood strategies and rural livelihood choices under conditions of ‘(post)occupation’

The questionnaire survey and focus groups undertaken by the project distinguished between short-term coping and long-term adaptation measures in the context of differential water availability under conditions of (post)occupation. Are current farming livelihood strategies and practices equipped to address additional climate stresses in the future?

Across the three study areas, existing independent farmers’ associations are judged the most effective means for improving the capacity or farmers to adapt to continuing water-related stresses (e.g. the 'sharaka' partnership system in the West Bank, the collective-owned coolers for storing apples in the Golan Heights). This finding is not surprising in the context of a lack of support from governmental organisations, which are typically seen either as weak (Lebanese government and Palestinian Authority) or hostile (State of Israel). Collective action over shared agricultural claims is thus an act of self-determination within a domain of contested sovereign authority.

As recommended by the regional focus groups, proposed adaptation measures across the three study areas vary according to distinctive governance conditions. Each of the focus groups highlighted better governmental support for farmers, encompassing technical, economic and land supply concerns (see sections 7.3, 8.3 and 9.3). Existing coping practices are generally seen as templates for adaptation to future climate-related stresses subject to governmental support for their scaling up. Yet in each area Israeli security and military practices are perceived to be the main obstacle to institutional strengthening of the farming sector: the maintenance and development of farming livelihoods is severely hampered by exceptional governance practices which systematically discriminate against the affected Arab/Druze communities. Even if the threat of use of force is rarely exercised, the securitisation of land and water resources in the three areas undermines agricultural development. This is most obvious in the occupied Golan Heights and Jordan Rift Valley, where intensifying and creeping annexation in underway; but the pervasive risk of violence faced by Lebanese farmers in the south-eastern borderlands of the Hasbani Basin is as debilitating for agricultural livelihoods.

Under conditions of (post)occupation, farming livelihoods in the three study areas are self-represented as oppositional to Israeli authority and influence, suggesting shared social identity as a source of livelihood resilience. Farming acquires political subjectivity as 'staying on the land', whether celebrating the small farmer (falah) in the occupied Golan Heights or ‘striving forward’ (Jihad) in the Jordan Rift Valley. Both in the West Bank and Golan case studies, a common referent in the field survey and focus groups was the concept of sumud (‘steadfastness’) developed first in a Palestinian political context as a non-violent response to Israeli military-occupational practices. Moral attachment to the land therefore underpins livelihood choices that may be judged by third parties as economically 'irrational' but, from a participant perspective, are necessary for political resistance to a sovereign actor perceived as hostile.

Policy implications


  • There is insufficient collection and dissemination of water resource use data to allow confident assessments of the factors driving changes in water availability and quality across the Jordan Basin. Given the political sensitivity of much national data on water use, basin-wide scientific coordination on the collection and analysis of regional meteorological and hydrological information can facilitate technical improvements in assessing shared (climatic and non-climatic) impacts on water resources.
  • Across the three study areas in the Jordan Basin, this research project highlighted the multiple means by which farmers cope with differential water availability. Some of these coping strategies already reflect adaptive responses to enduring reductions in water availability, indicating resilience in the face of climate-related water stresses. However, policy responses must acknowledge that the physical scarcity and/or poor quality of agricultural water in the study areas is, according to those surveyed, principally caused by conditions of (post)occupation.
  • Farmer associations are the most promising institutional means for fostering effective collective action in response to water scarcity. Internal and external support for institutional strengthening in water management is best targeted at supporting the independent farmers’ associations which, in each of the study areas, have developed autonomous, bottom-up capacity for adapting to differential water availability.
  • An examination of the water rights and needs of affected communities should be the baseline for donor interventions seeking to address climate and water insecurity under (post)occupation in the Jordan River Basin. International actors concerned with reducing the ‘climate vulnerability’ of small-scale farming communities in the (post)occupied regions of the Jordan Basin must respect the rule of international law – international humanitarian law, international water law, and international human rights law.
Date: 2014-09-17

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