Olive farming is not just economically important in the West Bank — it is culturally important as well. Many of the olive trees on our producer partners' farms are hundreds of years old, and they hold an almost sacred significance for some farmers. Some of the trees have been passed down from generation to generation, and represent deep familial ties to the land.
Sania Shqeer, a member and board member of Al Zawyeh co–op.
"When I was growing up my father took me with him when he worked in the olive groves," said Sania Shqeer, a member of the Al Zawyeh co-operative. "My father has since passed away. But I loved him; and because of that I love our trees."
Mohammed Hmidat, of the Palestinian Agricultural Relief Committee, puts it this way: "Olive oil is part of our culture. You have three trees, your neighbor has five trees, someone else has a small orchard. During harvest all the mountains are full of people, with music, people singing with their voices; it's like a festival, it's beautiful. The children come back from school and go to the fields, the whole family is there."
Equal Exchange is proud to support these farmers and their families as they rejuvenate their agricultural livelihoods. According to Al Zawyeh co–op president Ismail Hamondo, the benefits of the co–operative model are numerous: large–scale purchases have lowered the costs of production for farmers and the price they pay for pressing, and members share best practices in pruning, plowing and collection. The co–op also plays a social role in the community, helping farmers build local democracy and assisting students in finishing high school, among other things.
Fair Trade income in the first couple of years has helped farmers build a barn for sheep and distribute organic compost, with more developments on the way.
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