About the Olive Oil from Palestine

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How Palestinian olive oil broke down a barrier

Heather Gardner-Masoud

Heather Gardner-Masoud

Occupied territories aren’t the best backdrop for business…or are they?

Heather Masoud tells Anna Simpson about the world’s first fair trade oil.

From the steep terraces of Jenin to the heights of Gilboa, you hear the sound of strings and stamping feet. It’s just a murmur at first, but with every beat there’s more vigour as the dabke takes off. The leader waves his beads like olives in the breeze, and local kids gather round. Their cousins have journeyed home, the harvest is in, and the festivities have begun.
For Mohammed Isa of the Anin Co-op for Olive Oil Production, there are more reasons to celebrate the harvest this year than in the past. For the first time, his oil will be sold with Fairtrade certification. This means he’ll sell more of it, at a higher price, to a wider clientele – and so be able to invest in next year’s production. And he’s proud, too, to be part of the world’s first initiative for fair trade olive oil.

“Olive oil was seen as a developed country product, so it wasn’t on the fair trade radar”

When Heather Masoud and Cathi Pawson first contacted the Fairtrade Foundation about Palestinian olive oil, back in 2004, they didn’t get much of a response. “It was seen as a developed country product – from Italy or Greece,” explains Masoud, “so it wasn’t on their radar.”



The two women, who originally met through a permaculture course, had just returned from a spell as peace volunteers in the West Bank. They’d both been struck by the prevalence of the olive tree – “there are terraces everywhere!” – and its central role in Palestinian culture. But they had also met olive farmers who were unable to access markets due to restrictions on movement imposed by the Israeli occupation – and were determined to do something constructive.

Read the rest of this article at Forum for the Future…

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