September 26, 2013
In a major step forward for a Japanese Middle East peace initiative, a contract was concluded on July 10 for the first tenant company in the Jericho Agro-Industrial Park in the West Bank.
The park, known as JAIP, was created with Japanese cooperation. JAIP is the flagship project of the Corridor for Peace and Prosperity initiative proposed by Japan in July 2006 with the goal of regional cooperation, and the contract for the first tenant company can be called a remarkable step toward making the corridor a reality.
JAIP's first tenant, a Palestinian company, will process frozen foods, dried fruits and the like using the produce of Jericho area farmers. Next a factory will be built and equipment installed, then about 30 newly hired local employees will begin work.
Putting solar panels in place (JAIP, 2012)
Jericho is located in the West Bank and it has good access to the Jordan River. The history of Jericho stretches back some 10,000 years and the area has rich tourism resources including the ruins of King Herod's winter palace and the Mount of Temptation, where it is said that Christ fasted for 40 days and 40 nights. The land is rich in spring water and other natural resources, and agriculture is a key industry.
To help bring to fruition the Corridor for Peace and Prosperity concept, in 2006 JICA carried out the Jericho Regional Development Study Project in Palestine for the development of Jericho. In this study, which used a participatory planning approach, almost 50 group discussions were held among the Palestinian Authority, the city of Jericho, JICA and other stakeholders. As a result, a comprehensive Jericho regional development plan was formulated that takes careful account of local needs.
Based on the results of this regional comprehensive development survey, JICA cooperated with the establishment of JAIP so that agriculture could play a leading role in the sustainable economic development of the region. The aim of JAIP is to process the crops grown abundantly in the region centered on Jericho and the surrounding Jordan Valley, and after adding value, export them via the Jordan to neighboring countries or ship them within the Palestinian territories.
From 2007 to 2009, JICA carried out a feasibility survey and formulated a detailed infrastructure improvement plan for JAIP. So far, land preparation has been carried out and a solar power generation system, a water supply and storage tanks and a sewage treatment facility have been put in place.
Moreover, JICA since 2010 has been training employees of the Palestinian Industrial Estates and Free Zones Authority, which manages and oversees industrial areas in the Palestinian territories. This is part of JICA's work to accelerate the establishment of JAIP through soft infrastructure in addition to hard.
The relationship between Israel and the Palestinians, involving refugees, the status of Jerusalem and the demarcation of national borders, gets more complex with the passage of time. So Japan continues nurturing stakeholders on the Palestinian side, accumulating meetings with several countries and building relationships of trust with stakeholders while working to bring to fruition the Corridor for Peace and Prosperity initiative, As one actor representing Japan, JICA is also playing its part.
JICA will continue cooperation that contributes to the large international project of Middle East peace.