As of May 2008, food insecurity in the West Bank is estimated to be as high as 25% of households. Many more are vulnerable to food insecurity or are only marginally food secure. Among those most vulnerable are households in marginalized rural areas which are affected by the drought and conflicts. The livelihoods of small-scale herders in particular are severely threatened by the combined impact of ongoing drought, high input prices and tightening administrative and military measures.
In April 2008 ACTED survey indicates that women are involved to some degree in all household activities relating to livestock. A number of activities are almost exclusively conducted by female family members, such as milking, milk processing and shed maintenance. Other activities are shared among family members, such as grazing, animal feeding and product marketing. Small-scale herding (between 3 and 20 heads) is also very common among female-headed rural households.
Since mid-September 2008, ACTED has been conducting women's trainings on milk processing and dairy production in villages across the West Bank governorates of Salfit, Nablus, Qalqilya and Ramallah. In an effort to reach the highest number of female beneficiaries, the trainings are conducted by female specialists from the Palestinian Ministry of Agriculture. Dairy processing holds the potential to become a more significant and regular source of income for small-scale herders, and the trainings create a forum for women to share and build upon their knowledge.
ACTED's current programme seeks to include and incorporate women as much as possible in order to better support the livelihoods of vulnerable small-scale herders. Female family members have also been regular attendees to all ACTED trainings in some villages, and women are encouraged to join in all other community activities, such as the development of breeders' groups. Furthermore, female-headed households are targeted as more vulnerable during the beneficiary selection process.
The critical and valuable role of women in crisis situations is overlooked by many projects, particularly in the West Bank. ACTED is committed to responding to humanitarian and emergency situations with a holistic and gender-sensitive approach