Most residents of Absan El-Kabera in Khan Younis, Gaza depend on agriculture as a vital source of income. But the dirt road leading to the farms was challenge.
All it took was the rehabilitation and paving of one key road in the area, Road Number 19, and the communities it served have undergone a major transformation.
The new road brings new life to the community by giving residents safe and easy access to farms, the local hospital and clinic. It has also enabled farmers to transport livestock and agricultural products more easily and quickly. And, the new road has improved hygienic and environmental conditions with the paved road now preventing the pooling of rainwater runoff.
Anera’s rehabilitation of Road 19, which included nearly 950 linear meters of asphalting, was funded by USAID for just over $200,000.
Farmer Mahmoud Abu Watfa is relieved: “I live far away but have land close to the road.I tend to my land every day, but each time I came, it took me so long trying all the bypass agricultural roads to reach my farm. I brought my grandson, Mohammed, with me today. He is curious to see the new road that I have told him about.” Mohammed, a fourth grader, nods and smiles shyly.
Now Road 19 is filled with farmers driving their tractors and others in tuk-tuks (motorbikes with carts attached), cars and donkey carts. Children whizz by on bikes. Standing there, you’re likely to see just about every mode of transportation.
Ishaak Bolaq says he now can bike to his nearby greenhouse. “It used to take me an hour walking to reach my greenhouse. With the new road, I can be here in 10 minutes on my bike.” He proudly shows off his tomato produce, “Now I can come twice a day to my greenhouse, in the morning and in the evening. I grow tomatoes, eggplants, wheat and other types of vegetables.”
The father of eight children says he can feed his family from the produce of his greenhouse. And, he sells the remaining produce in the local market to make a living. Ishaak explains, “Because there was no paved road, people used to walk across my land to get to their fields or schools, which would devastate my crops.”
After the rehabilitation of the road, people have stopped doing this. Ishaak continues, “Venders come with their distribution trucks and load the produce to take to the markets.” Before, there was no safe way to get trucks to the farms. “I had to get my produce to the market on my own,” Ishaak explains. “This road is saving me money and effort.”
Once the morning school shift ends, Road 19 is filled with children of all ages, dressed in school uniforms, on their way home for lunch. “My children now take a tuk-tuk ride to the school and back. In the past, they used to walk long distances,” says Suha El-Shawaf, mother of six. “The afternoon shift was the worst as the children came home very late.” Another big concern for Suha and others was the quick access of ambulances to transfer patients to the hospital. She says It used to take up to an hour for an ambulance to get to a home. “Now it can take as little as 15 minutes. Every minute counts in an emergency,” she adds.