For most people, fair trade means making sure South American and African farmers get paid a reasonable wage to grow coffee and chocolate. But in Israel, fair trade is much more local. Two companies have emerged in the last few years to provide a living wage for farmers in the region.
The first, SAHA, is a Hebrew acronym for Fair Trade, as well as the Arabic word for “bon appetit.” SAHA was launched by the environmental-social group Green Action in 2005, according to Green Action director Avi Levi. SAHA sells olive oil, sage, zaatar and grape syrup (pictured at the left) made by Palestinian farmers in the West Bank, as well as jam cooked up by Jerusalem women. Israelis can also buy SAHA coffee grown in South America.
Levi said that while some Israelis start buying SAHA olive oil for political reasons, others appreciate the taste of local, organic, extra-virgin olive oil is outstanding. SAHA sold eight tons of oil this year, he said.
“We work with an Italian delicatessen in Ramat Hachayal,” Levi said. “They were bringing in their olive oil from Italy. And they tasted our olive oil and saw it isn’t any worse.”
The second brand hawking local free trade is Sindyanna of the Galilee, which is a mix of Arabic and English for Oak of the Galilee. This company markets olive oil, soap, zaatar, honey, carob syrup and baskets produced with traditional Palestinian methods. Most of the producers are from Arab villages in Israel, although some soap comes from Nablus, a city in the northern West Bank. Sindyanna is selling fair trade gift boxes for the holidays; NIS 70 gets a bottle of olive oil, a jar of honey and a jar of zaatar.
Both companies marry the idea of fair trade to local eating, which cuts down on the energy needed to ship food around the world.