University of Calgary

Researching the effects of Separation Wall on West Bank farmland

UToday HomeJuly 3, 2013

By Jessica Wallace

EVDS PhD candidate Maha AbuHafeetha and her family along the Separation Wall in the West Bank. EVDS PhD candidate Maha AbuHafeetha and her family along the Separation Wall in the West Bank. The role of the much-disputed Separation Wall in the loss of farmland in the Palestinian territories will be the subject of an eight-month field study by a Faculty of Environmental Design PhD candidate.

Maha AbuHafeetha will conduct fieldwork in the West Bank through the support of the Choquette Family Foundation Global Experience Graduate Scholarship.

Established in 2007 by Pierre and Brenda Choquette at the University of Calgary, the foundation awards five $10,000 scholarships per year to students interested in pursuing international experience.

AbuHafeetha earned one of the foundation’s 2012 Global Experience Graduate Scholarships for her research proposal in the West Bank. Her goal is to investigate and identify the main factors leading to the loss of agricultural land for urban development since the construction of the Separation Wall.

This summer, AbuHafeetha’s will start her eight-month field research in the Palestinian territories. She will collect census data and other information, while conducting a series of interviews with farmers and local residents working in planning and agricultural co-operatives who have been directly affected by the existence of the 700-km wall.

“I am so excited to have this unique opportunity and challenge at the same time,” says AbuHafeetha. “I feel I am paying something back to our country. Not only will I expand my knowledge on urban planning and sustainable development, but will also learn how to effectively communicate with the public and decision makers. As a scientist, I feel I must actively participate in educating the public, including the government, on the importance of urban planning and sustainable development.”

Loss of agricultural land by urban growth is a growing concern worldwide. In the Palestinian context, and due to the political situation and expansion restrictions, urban development is taking over agricultural land, which is the main source of food production and the backbone of the Palestinian economy.

AbuHafeetha earned a Bachelor’s degree in Architectural Engineering from An-Najah National University of Palestine in 2006, a Master of Engineering from the University of Calgary in 2009, and has been with EVDS since the fall of 2009.