By Tom Baker
Olive Oil Times Contributor | Reporting from Buenos Aires
The Palestinian-American entrepreneur Nasser Abufarha, Founder of the nonprofit Palestine Fair Trade Association (PFTA), and Canaan Fair Trade, the largest exporter of fair trade and organic Palestinian olive oil to the US and Europe, is to speak in Santa Cruz today.
Mr. Abufarha will be discussing the work of fair trade organizations in Palestine and will also receive a donation of $25,000 toward the Association’s work.
In 2004 the PFTA created the first internationally recognized standard for fair trade olive oil and has since gone on to introduce fair trade and organic farming
techniques to thousands of Palestinian farmers in the west bank region. This has both helped boost exports of Palestinian olive oil and has also “…given farmers hope. An economic exchange that recognizes Palestinian farmers’ rights and respects the value of their connection to the land.” Mr. Abufarha said.
The goal of the PFTA and Canaan Fair Trade has been along two lines: to increase the quality of production, creating a system that is at once sustainable, ethical, and true to Palestine’s long history of olive oil making, and to build groups of small producers to better target international markets.
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“I worked with them to build co-ops,” Mr. Abufarha said in an interview with foodspring.com, “and helped them network their co-ops and address quality issues so olive oil could meet export standards.”
In working together, farmers are able to benefit from collective pressing that allows them to press smaller yields on a daily basis, resulting in higher quality oil with a lower acidity. They are also able to maintain traditional farming
techniques, with minimal use of machinery, ensuring that the land retains its
quality for future generations.
In addition to organizing local farmers, the association has provided college scholarships for the children of farmers as well as micro-loans for women’s farming co-ops.
In 2006 and 2010, farmers were backed by a two-wave scheme introduced by the IMF designed to aid Palestinian companies in the packaging and exporting of their olive oil. This has meant that the industry has been able to consider new directions for expansion. At the end of last year, a large number of producers, supported by the European Union and the charity Oxfam, attended the annual Middle East Natural and Organic Product Exposition aiming to promote fair trade Palestinian olive oil in the region.
This will be Mr. Abufarha’s second visit to Santa Cruz in order collect donations for the PFTA, but he has stated that his satisfaction with the success of the association goes beyond the economic as it “…touches the lives of thousands of families, creates positive change in the producers’ environment, brings special
delicacies to the world, and connects Palestinian producers with food lovers
and socially and environmentally responsible communities around the world.”