Tiberias (Jun. 2)
A tour of the villages in the North reveals the terrible effects of the drought which has marked the agricultural season of 1932-3. The fields which should be smiling at this time of the year with standing corn are desolate. The sap had gone out of the stems before the wheat ripened and the stunted crops are not worth gathering. There are places where the farmers have gone out to garner what they could with their own fingers, hired labor or machinery being beyond their means, and they have given up the attempt in despair.
Not the smallest tragedy is that of the herds, deprived of their fodder and facing starvation. Government officers have advised farmers to sell some of their animals to butchers in order to secure food for themselves. But even this desperate remedy is not always available. Cattle is coming in from Cyprus and elswhere, and the butchers after offering low prices, have declined to buy.
The District Commissioner and District Officers have been visiting the villages and settlements, Upper and Lower Galilee and the Jordan Valley to gauge the losses resulting from the failure of the rains and there is no doubt of the sorry tale they will report to their superiors Among alleviation measures has been suggested the sending of the unsold herds to pasture in the Huleh District, but farmers assert that previous experience of such pasturage has not been satisfactory, the cattle having returned lean and hungry. It is planned to grow green fodder near Semakh on the Jordan and to provide pumps for irrigating the fields from the Kinnereth lake. In previous years the fellahin have been employed on such works and then allowed to purchase the maize at a fraction of the cost.
The Agricultural Department has also sent an officer to visit the devastated agricultural area in the Galilee with a view to advising what might be done to lighten the burden. The farmers have not really recovered from the effects of poor rainfall in previous years, are in debt to the government for taxation, and see no possibility whatever of paying the Government and feeding themselves at the same time. Famine faces them and their house-holds.
The settlement Committees and Mukhtars are urging the Government to initiate public works, such as necessary roads, on which cultivators may be employed. The Jewish farmers are hoping that the Palestine Jewish Colonization Association will also put in hand certain road construction through their property. Another proposal is a large loan to agriculturists and exemption from taxation to enable them to tide over this very difficult year.