Palestinian Farmers Look to Export Fair Trade Grapes

odeh-sabarna-chemicalsThe southern West Bank is known for its grapes, which Palestinians grow with little to no water on small plots. Often the vineyards are simple grape trees, without wires to support or encourage the plants to spread out.

This month, I wrote a piece for the Jerusalem Report on Odeh Sabarna (left), who runs  the Beit Ommar Cooperative Agricultural Products and Services Society out of the southern West Bank village of 15,000. Sabarna is trying to sell fair trade raisins to Germany. His cooperative also buys chemicals, both conventional and organic, in bulk in order to cut costs for small farmers.

We’ve written here about the Israeli label SAHA: Fair Trade, which imports Palestinian olive oil, grape honey and za’atar to health food stores, mainly in Tel Aviv. Sabarna’s story is about the Palestinians who make it further away from home by using modern marketing to preserve centuries-old farming practices.For a brief summary, there are several other groups promoting Palestinian Fair Trade, mainly on the West Bank. The Palestinian Agricultural Relief Committees (PARC) organization exports olive oil, couscous, sundried tomatoes, almonds. Nasser Abufarha runs the Palestine Fair Trade Association out of Jenin, which sells similar products along with honey and tehini. Palestinian olive oil is the most successful product.

However, all these organizations are working at a time when farming is increasingly less profitable and less desirable. Beit Ommar is on the road between Bethlehem and Hebron, cities with promising off-farm job prospects. Because land in Beit Ommar is scarce, the farmland at the village edge is checkered with new concrete houses. Sabarna says he will send his three kids to university, as will the rest of the village parents. It seems like even for Fair Trade farmers, agriculture is more and more a side occupation and not the main source of income.

You can read the full article by clicking these thumbnails (you have to click through a few times to see them full size).Jreport-Fairtrade-1Jreport-Fairtrade-2Jreport-Fairtrade-3Jreport-Fairtrade-4

Sabarna is looking for English-speaking volunteers to edit the Beit Ommar Cooperative’s Web site. If you’d like to contact him to visit the farm or to help out, check out the Web site, where you can find his e-mail address and phone number.

And to see more pictures and the story behind this article, check out TheTruthHerzl.

(Photo by Daniella Cheslow)

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8 thoughts on “Palestinian Farmers Look to Export Fair Trade Grapes”

  1. Tim Upham says:

    That is one of the things that can be the catalyst of Israeli-Palestinian relations is economics. Already, the Palestinians do U.S. $3 billion dollars worth of business with Israel, and Israel is the Palestinians largest trading partner. They could do joint ventures together, such as having transport facilities in Gaza that could transport Palestinian grapes, and Israeli fresh fruit and flowers to markets in Europe. They could both benefit greatly by such joint ventures, but in order for them to take place, a two-state solution has to be firmly worked on and put into place.

  2. Sarah Irving says:

    The url in the link to the Beit Ommar co-op is wrong – try instead.

  3. dsokal says:

    To purchase the olive oils of Green Action and Sindyanna, please visit Each fair trade groups' olive oil is available separately as well as in a mix of the two along with the olive oil of the Palestinian group, Canaan Fair Trade. Green Action olive oil is not available in the US other than at Support small Palestinian farmers struggling under occupation, cooperation between Israelis and Palestinians and eat healthy olive oil. Also makes an excellent gift for all occasions. Definitely a more unique hostess gift than the expected bottle of wine. Thanks for supporting peace in Israel Palestine. David Sokal, owner of Olive Branch Enterprises the exclusive importer, bottler and distributor of Peace Oil in the US and Canada.

  4. Fair trade may not be the solution to end poverty in the developing world, but it certainly has done more than alternative ideas or movements. Unfortunately, the credit crisis has adversely affected the fair trade movement.

    Just like businesses in the North, fair trade businesses in the developing world need access to fair financing for such things as overcoming temporary shortfalls in cash flow or term loans for capital equipment.

    Unfortunately there are few (if any) financing options available and as a result we are starting to see seemingly vibrant fair trade businesses beginning to fail.

    Shared Interest is a co-operative lending society and world’s only 100% fair trade lender that aims to reduce poverty in the world by providing fair and just financial services. We work with fair trade businesses all over the world, both producers and buyers, providing credit to help them trade and develop. If you would like to learn how you can invest in fair trade, I would like to encourage you to visit our website or send an email to my collegaue Patrick email.

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