The Story of Fair Trade Olive Oil

By Alia Akkam / April 16, 2011

Palestine might be a hotbed of conflict, but its fertile land offers new promise. Working in tandem with umbrella organization Palestine Fair Trade Association, Canaan Fair Trade believes profitable olive farming is one way of boosting a dire economic situation. Before Canaan Fair Trade was established by Dr. Nasser Abufarha, an anthropologist from the village of Jalameh in the Jenin district, farmers would sell their olive oil (olive orchards comprise 80 percent of Palestine’s farmland, and Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps sources most of its olive oil here for its products) for 23 percent less than it cost them to harvest. Thanks to Abufarha’s efforts, ensuring minimum production costs for growers and connecting small-scale producers with consumers, income has doubled and farmers are now able to make a living based on tradition.

“Our work benefits seventeen hundred farmers, which means seventeen hundred families in the northern West Bank,” shares Canaan Fair Trade’s Vivien Sansour. “The impact of the work on the lives of the producers has been tremendous, not just economically but socially and emotionally, as it has allowed our community to re-find its strength, and has encouraged people to go back to the land to sustain themselves and a rich agricultural heritage.” Farmers pick olives fresh from the field to be pressed at Canaan’s state-of-the-art facility, or at their monitored local cooperative presses, and luckily, home cooks can experience these USDA organic, cold-pressed extra-virgin olive oils stateside.

The Nabali, fruity with a peppery finish, features olives grown from its indigenous namesake trees, while the complex Rumali, using olives grown from trees planted during the Roman era, flaunts more herbaceous notes. For the estate blend, olives from the ancient trees of Bayaada are processed on the day of harvest.

Alia Akkam
Alia Akkam

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