Monday, 7 November 2016

Teaching Farmers to Fish

The principle behind the analogy of giving a man a fish versus teaching him to fish is an
important one.
Supporting it in real terms, however, isn't always easy. The same goes for identifying situations where the application of this principle is necessary. One obvious case though, is Palestine.

To be more specific, supporting the Palestinian olive market is the equivalent of teaching a man to fish. It makes him self-sustainable, empowers him and lends these benefits to his community at large.
Supplying much needed funds to the ravaged Palestine is never a bad thing, except maybe if it's the only action taken and support given. It's obvious that assisting Palestinians in trading their merchandise is of greater value than any financial aid when we understand the importance of the olive, of land and of the need for economic empowerment in Palestine.

The olive oil industry supports the livelihoods of approximately 80 000 families in the West Bank, but for Palestinians, agriculture means more than just a financial resource. The olive, land and farming is tied to their identity and propels the struggle against Israeli domination.

For people that have been forcefully dispossessed, what can be more important than land?
Though an unassuming labour, farming is a strong form of power resistance in the Palestinian story. In fifth century Europe, it was control over knowledge and education through literacy that placed power in the hands of dominant institutions like the Catholic church. In the ongoing Palestinian struggle, food plays a role much like literacy did. Farming is thus a way by which Palestinians can demonstrate the will and garner the power to reclaim their livelihoods and freedom.

As a result, farmers in Palestine can be viewed as more powerful than fighters. In the struggle for survival and freedom it is this crucial form of resistance by farmers that plays the biggest role.
Farming is a way to eradicate aid dependency, cultivate local livelihoods and enforce the Palestinian right to land, even whilst under prolonged occupation.
In line with this, building a farming policy can generate employment, strengthen markets and help regain control over the economy.

To reiterate, olive farming is a powerful form of non-violent resistance against Israel. Aiding this resistance, Zaytoun SA brings the produce of Palestinian farmers to SA in the form of olives, olive oil, dates, maftoul (hand rolled Palestinian cous cous) and za'atar (a zesty thyme based herb mix hand made by women in Palestinian villages).

Zaytoun adheres to the principles of Fair trade, which is an alternative approach to conventional trade and a global movement that represents sustainability and development through trade.
It aims to make a difference in developing countries by buying their products in an ethical manner. This includes paying fairer prices and establishing direct trading partnerships with producers.
The Palestinian Fair Trade Association (PFTA) says garnering support for Palestine in SA makes more sense than anywhere else in Africa, since the stories of these nations are so similar.

"Fairtrade isn't just about the price. We had given farmers hope. An economic exchange that recognizes Palestinian farmers' rights and respects the value of their connection to their land, after years of marginalisation under Israeli occupation, is a major accomplishment. Establishing a fair trade program gave farmers a new language that enabled them to ask for a fair price.
"Farmers started seeing farming as a viable way of earning a living again. Farming is a skill they know well. It is deep in their heritage. Making farming viable again is good for the whole community. It creates hope and this is what makes it meaningful," says Nasser Abu Farha of PFTA.
On a recent visit to SA, Um Hikmet Khaled (PALESTINE FAIR TRADE MEMBER OF WOMENs CO-OP FROM DEIR BALLOUT) highlighted “We want our work to
communicate to people around the world that we are beautiful and strong women contrary to how we are often portrayed.”

While many women find themselves in a position where their husbands cannot find work due to closures and a challenging economy, Um Hikmat says, “We have to find ways to support ourselves. It is important to show young girls that they are not prisoners to their circumstances and that with hard work and determination, they may not be able to change the whole situation, but they can
become more in control of their lives.”

Harvesting support
Having spent time in the west bank as a volunteer occupational therapist and a human rights activist under the umbrella of the International Solidarity Movement, I have come to witness the deep love and attachment Palestinians have for their land. It serves not only as their heritage but their means of survival as most Palestinians live off their land.
Haj Bashir (Palestinian Fair Trade olive farmer and olive oil producer) believes that his experience as a Fair Trade farmer who is connected to a wider global movement has sprouted seeds of hope and strength in his heart.

“I feel so proud to know that there are people around the world who are eating their salads with the olive oil I produce. There is no bigger joy than this.”

As a father of eighteen daughters and sons, he prides himself on his hard work and the fact that he is able to take care of all the members of his family through his work as a farmer.
Palestinians have a great sense of pride in their produce especially their olive oil. They firmly believe that it's the best and purest form of olive oil in the world. So convinced are they, that on more than one occasion when spending time with farmers, they poured olive oil in plastic bottles and insisted that I take it home to South Africa with me so others get to enjoy the taste of Palestinian olive oil.

The olive harvest is a special time in Palestinian farming communities, an opportunity to reap the benefits of the year’s care and nurturing of their land.
It's an event that brings families and villages together. Since many Palestinian farmers can't afford paid workers, family and friends come together to assist each other in the olive picking.
Of course, it's never as simple as that. Israel in its ongoing onslaught of land grab has deliberately placed movement restrictions on Palestinians, making access to their land difficult, if not impossible. Illegal settlers take pride and joy in destroying age old trees that are ripe and ready for harvest, as a means of destroying any possible form of self-sustaining income to Palestinians. In addition, the construction of the illegal Israeli wall has divided man from his land.

Despite all these hindrances, the determination of Palestinians wins over. This determination, combined with support from countries like SA, has the power to change the Palestinian story to one of success. The fate of Palestine lies in all our hands.

For more information on how buying Fairly Traded Zaytoun Palestinian products like Olive Oil, Olives Organic Maftoul, Zatar & Olive Oil Soap in South Africa, you are directly supporting Palestinian farmers earn the dignity of a sustained income, Women’s Empowerment, & Economic & Social Development in Palestine please visit or call 0846767860. Please feel free to get in touch if you are interested in visiting Palestine to volunteer during the annual Olive Harvest or being a part of the Zaytoun SA team.

By Khatija Rasool (Founder - Zaytoun SA)

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