Hundreds of Palestinians and Israelis Help Launch Cross-Border Project

May 18, 2012

Nablus, West Bank (May 18, 2012) — In 2012, hundreds of Palestinians and Israelis in the olive oil industry have gathered through a series of workshops and trainings designed to improve production and incomes across the border.

The participants are volunteers in a three-year Near East Foundation initiative that is building capacity and economic cooperation in the industry across six clusters of villages in Israel and the West Bank.

Regionally, the olive sector is essential to the rural economy and the olive tree has been a symbol of the Holy Land throughout history. The “Olive Oil Without Borders” project is grounded in this foundation, with a goal of improving knowledge, building partnerships, and strengthening the industry overall.

The USAID-funded project is engaging technical experts and people at all levels of the olive oil sector value chain, including olive farmers, mill operators, and oil exporters. They are working together to identify common challenges, develop a deeper understanding of their individual and shared needs, and brainstorm potential solutions.

In total, the project will work directly with over 1,400 olive producers and at least 12 mill operators and 12 olive oil distributors.

Over 45 people gathered for the first cross-border event, held on May 7, 2012 in the Galilee region of northern Israel. The meeting marked a significant occasion for many participants, who were meeting their colleagues from across the border for the first time.

A framework for the cross-border dialogue was developed in March by a group of 16 experts who met at the Peres Center for Peace, a partner in the effort along with NEF and the Palestinian Center for Agricultural Research and Development.

Early in 2012, launch workshops were held to introduce the project to potential participants and gather information about current needs in village clusters of project focus. Sixteen Israeli farmers gathered in Ein Herod, and a total of 179 Palestinian farmers gathered in workshops that took place in Asirah Shamaliya, Salfit, Qabatiya, and Kafr Zeibad in the West Bank.

Moving forward, participants will continue to meet and share ideas as the effort expands to include targeted activities that will improve production, harvesting, and marketing.

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The Near East Foundation is a U.S.-based international development NGO leading innovative social and economic change in the Middle East and Africa for almost 100 years. Founded in 1915, NEF helps build more sustainable, prosperous, and inclusive communities through education, governance, and economic development initiatives. NEF field staff – all of them from the countries in which they work – partner with local organizations to implement grassroots solutions and to empower citizens through “knowledge, voice, and enterprise.” To learn more visit www.neareast.org.

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This report is made possible by the generous support of the American people through theUnited States Agency for International Development (USAID). The contents are the responsibility of the Near East Foundation and do not necessarily reflect the views of USAID or the United States Government.

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