Palestinian Women Leaders Visit Fair Trade Center and Olive Fields in Israel

Nov 29, 2012

Galilee, Israel (November 29, 2012) — In a rare cross-border exchange, 30 Palestinian women civic leaders traveled from the West Bank to Israel, where they met with Israeli and Arab-Israeli women. During the daylong visit, the women – who are all farmers – discussed the economic benefits of cross-border cooperation, modern farming practices, and new income opportunities.

The Near East Foundation led the exchange through its Olive Oil Without Borders project, a three-year initiative funded by USAID.

At Sindyanna of Galilee, a women-led non-profit organization, the Palestinian women met with 13 Israeli and Arab-Israeli women to learn about the economic benefits of cross-border fair-trade. The women of Sindyanna produce a variety of fair trade products including olive oil, soap, honey, and baskets.

During the meeting, the Palestinian women introduced their experiences as individual entrepreneurs and their connections with local women’s associations similar to Sindyanna.

The women quickly found common ground. Like their Sindyanna counterparts, many of the Palestinians also generate income from activities such as beekeeping and olive oil soap production.

Following a presentation by Ms. Osnat Shperling, Sindyanna of Galilee Director, the women asked questions about the organization and exchanged their experiences in business logistics and craft production.

Sindyanna of Galilee’s handwoven artisanal goods, made of date palm branches commonly found in the West Bank, were of particular interest to the visiting women. After taking cellphone photos of handwoven products, the Palestinian women requested that the Near East Foundation assist in setting up workshops by Sindyanna trainers at women’s associations in the West Bank.

As the Olive Oil Without Borders project continues – and NEF expands its work with women entrepreneurs – Sindyanna trainers from Israel will join with Palestinian women to create innovative and environmentally conscious products that appeal to both cross-border and international markets, and can provide new opportunities for the women to generate income.

After enjoying some free time over coffee and conversation at the Sindyanna of Galilee visitor center, the Palestinian women then toured olive groves in the Ein Dor Kibbutz and the Yezrael Kibbutz.

While walking among rows of Israeli olive trees, the Palestinian women expressed surprise at the new olive species and the high level of yield despite the young age of the trees. “Palestinians currently lack the technology and know-how to replicate the techniques that result in this kind of yield,” explained Dr. Abel Hadi, the project’s senior agribusiness specialist in Israel.

In order to bridge the gap in technology and farming knowledge between Palestinian and Israeli female farmers, the Near East Foundation will hold joint training workshops in January 2013. These workshops will be followed by peer-to-peer sessions empowering women to improve their local economy through sharing their knowledge with other women in their villages and amplifying their collective voice in civic affairs.

Upon returning to their West Bank villages, surrounded by silvery green olive groves, the women brought back new ideas and samples of olive varieties they picked while in Israel. The exchange demonstrated to Palestinian women from the West Bank – who rarely come in contact with their Jewish and Arab neighbors living in Israel – that cross-border economic cooperation is feasible and profitable.

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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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