Surge in Gaza Cropland Damage Amid Conflict: UNOSAT, FAO

Geneva, Switzerland - The United Nations Satellite Centre (UNOSAT), in collaboration with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), has released an update on the health and density of cropland in the Gaza Strip.

This damage assessment analyzed the status of cropland in the Gaza Strip, which was comprised of field crops, vegetables and orchards and other trees. Roughly 41% of the Gaza Strip's total area is covered by cropland, according to recent estimates by FAO. However, 57% of this cropland, which plays a vital role in maintaining food security, has been damaged in the ongoing conflict in the Gaza Strip as of May 2024. These results were realized in a collaborative assessment by UNOSAT and FAO, by method of employing geospatial analysis to compare the health and density of cropland to the average state of cropland over the past years.

Combining various satellite imagery such as Sentinel-2, Worldview 2-3, Pléiades for the period between May 2017 and 2024, this analysis provides a geospatial perspective on the impact of the ongoing conflict on the integrity of the agricultural sector in the Gaza Strip. UNOSAT and FAO conducted an analysis of the changes of crop land area extent, crop categories and Normalised Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) to assess significant changes in cropland health and density when compared to data representing the past seven years.

8 660 ha of cropland in the Gaza Strip was determined to be damaged, amounting to 57% of the total cropland area. The governorate of Rafah exhibited the most significant increase in area of damaged cropland, more than doubling from 452 ha in February to 922 ha in May 2024. 1 751 ha (59.3%) of field crops, 1 675 ha (52.2%) of vegetables and 233 ha (59.1%) of orchards and other trees were established as damaged.

As of May 2024, crop health and density across the Gaza Strip appears to have substantially declined compared to the average of the past seven years. This deterioration is attributed to conflict-related operations, including razing, heavy vehicle movement, bombing, and shelling. The assessment, which evaluates damage to permanent field crops, vegetables and orchards and other trees, offers an insight into the relationship between conflict-related destruction and the state of the agricultural sector. The extent and severity of the damages highlighted in this assessment underscore the urgent need to provide emergency support to restart local production of fresh and perishable food. UNOSAT and FAO remain committed to providing accurate and timely information to support humanitarian efforts in conflict-affected areas. This satellite imagery-based analysis will serve as a crucial tool for assessing the implications of the damage and guiding emergency relief efforts.

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