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Fairtrade producers interviewed at UN climate talks

Nasser Abufarha, of Canaan Fair Trade describes how climate change is worsening the situation for Palestine’s already vulnerable olive oil and almond farmers.

Fungus diseases and extremely hot summer temperatures meant the olive harvest this year dropped by 50%.

Can Fairtrade support these farmers in situations like this? Watch this video and find out!

This interview is one of a series carried out with Fairtrade producers at the UN climate change talks (COP18). More to come in the next few days!

FLO in Palestine: Chiraz Skhiri, the Regional Coordinator for the Middle  East and North Africa at Fairtrade Labelling Organizations, is travelling to Palestine this week to visit  with local farmers and provide training to cooperatives and other  producer organizations.
I went to Tel Aviv to meet with Green Action, an Israeli NGO, and I had another meeting with a small Fair Trade Shop.
I am staying in Jerusalem now. It is weird to be here again. Since working for FLO, I haven’t been allowed to go to Israel or enter Jerusalem. It’s been three years and I am always speechless.
Jerusalem is basically, ‘On this sidewalk I am on the Israeli side and on this side walk I am on the Arab side.’ A nine meter high separation wall separates the West Bank from Jerusalem in some parts.
Old City of Jerusalem has a Christian Quarter, a Muslim and Jewish Quarter and an Armenian Quarter. Then you have areas where you have Jewish Orthodox areas. It is a mix of everyone living together. There are so many rules to be aware of and to follow.
I always forget how to get around and where I am here, what language to speak. In the West Bank, you are surrounded by the wall, it is the occupation indeed, but you do not feel it as much as in Jerusalem (I’m including a nice picture of Al Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem).

FLO in Palestine: Chiraz Skhiri, the Regional Coordinator for the Middle East and North Africa at Fairtrade Labelling Organizations, is travelling to Palestine this week to visit with local farmers and provide training to cooperatives and other producer organizations.

I went to Tel Aviv to meet with Green Action, an Israeli NGO, and I had another meeting with a small Fair Trade Shop.

I am staying in Jerusalem now. It is weird to be here again. Since working for FLO, I haven’t been allowed to go to Israel or enter Jerusalem. It’s been three years and I am always speechless.

Jerusalem is basically, ‘On this sidewalk I am on the Israeli side and on this side walk I am on the Arab side.’ A nine meter high separation wall separates the West Bank from Jerusalem in some parts.

Old City of Jerusalem has a Christian Quarter, a Muslim and Jewish Quarter and an Armenian Quarter. Then you have areas where you have Jewish Orthodox areas. It is a mix of everyone living together. There are so many rules to be aware of and to follow.

I always forget how to get around and where I am here, what language to speak. In the West Bank, you are surrounded by the wall, it is the occupation indeed, but you do not feel it as much as in Jerusalem (I’m including a nice picture of Al Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem).

In East Bani Zeid, we are building a storage room and we have a project to build our own processing facilities. We are currently receiving funds from France to build a place for a women’s cooperative that will become part of East Bani Zeid. The women will be making olive tapenade from Fairtrade certified olives and olive oil to increase our opportunities in the Fairtrade market.

Mahmoud al Qadi of the East Bani Zeid Cooperative, a Fairtrade certified cooperative.

FLO in Palestine: Interest in Fairtrade Continues

Tuesday, 21.12.2010: I met with six cooperatives applying for Fairtrade status. It was the first time I met these cooperatives and I did a general Fairtrade awareness training, followed by a discussion on the cost of certification, and how to organize the cooperatives into an association of cooperatives. Mahmoud al Qadi from East Bani Zeid Cooperative, a Fairtrade certified cooperative, attended the second half of the training and it was just perfect.

East Bani Zeid cooperative is an exemplary cooperative and I took the opportunity of Mahmoud’s presence for him to say a word on Fairtrade and how cooperatives need to strategize and work together to organize themselves and lower the certification costs and increase premium income.

Photo of Mahmoud al Qadi from East Bani Zeid Cooperative

FLO in Palestine: Training Cooperatives for Independence

Chiraz Skhiri, the Fairtrade Regional Coordinator for the Middle East and North Africa, is travelling through Palestine visiting with local farmers and cooperatives to provide training and services on behalf of the Fairtrade Labelling Organizations.

Monday 20.12.2010: Today I held a strategic meeting with 22 participants from 12 cooperatives. It was an extremely good training day, one of the best I have done.

These 12 cooperatives are all individually Fairtrade certified because they were part of an EU project.

But once the project is over on 31 December 2010, the producers will need to cover their own costs certification. As part of our work in Producer Services and Relations, we provide support in these cases to help them make the transition.

So here is what we did:

  • I provided them with an overview of the market
  • Cost benefits analysis
  • And helped evaluate the different options

During that training I asked a Fairtrade contact from the Palestinian Association of Fair Trade Production (PAFTP) to provide information to these cooperatives on how they could create an association of cooperatives, or a 2nd grade organization, that would help them pool resources more effectively.

After providing all the necessary information and tools to the producers, all non-members and I were asked to leave the room and the group held a meeting to discuss the challenges and opportunities.

After 45 minutes of discussion the producers reported back. It was a very positive meeting. The producers are looking for a solution to remain and succeed in Fairtrade. FLO and PSR will provide more follow-up to help the farmers.

FLO in Palestine - Sunday 19.12.2010
Today I held a training meeting with UAWC - Union of Agricultural Work Committees, which provides technical support to Palestinian farmers and helps them market their produce.
They recently had a Fairtrade surveillance audit, which is the second audit they go through, and it went very well. They had very few non-compliance issues, which we discussed. The meeting was held in ‘Assira Al Qibliya in the South of Nablus.
Na’im Rashed of Beit Leed (in the photo above), a member of the UAWC, mentioned “We still need support to open road to access the trees that are not easily accessible.”

FLO in Palestine - Sunday 19.12.2010

Today I held a training meeting with UAWC - Union of Agricultural Work Committees, which provides technical support to Palestinian farmers and helps them market their produce.

They recently had a Fairtrade surveillance audit, which is the second audit they go through, and it went very well. They had very few non-compliance issues, which we discussed. The meeting was held in ‘Assira Al Qibliya in the South of Nablus.

Na’im Rashed of Beit Leed (in the photo above), a member of the UAWC, mentioned “We still need support to open road to access the trees that are not easily accessible.”

FLO in Palestine: At Canaan Fair Trade

Wednesday, December 15th: It’s time to leave the Issa family. Iman doesn’t want me to leave and she is crying. I will be back, Iman.

I hold one last meeting in Jenin with the Fairtrade certified exporter, Canaan Fair Trade. It is always a pleasure to have a conversation with Nasser Abufarha, Director at Canaan.

We set  a time for our next visit. I give him advice on the needs of producers, what he needs from the producers he works with. We talk about market opportunities and the issues around olive oil and how to develop the Fairtrade market, how to become a licensee and increase their opportunities in other countries.

On Tuesday, December 14th, we conduct a training with the new management of the Palestine Fair Trade Producers Company (PFTPC). Drinking a lot of Arabic coffee… I’ve missed that.
I realize how much I’ve missed speaking in Arabic and listening to the farmers’ updates on different issues they face in their day to day life. We ended up spending a lot of time talking about the Fairtrade Minimum Price and Premium and we agree on the next steps to move forward.
By the end of the day, I am back with the Issa family in Anin, a village in Jenin. The Issa’s are always welcoming and make me feel part of the family. It’s not my first time staying here and the kids are used to me now. I help them with their homework in English and they tell me jokes.
Later while trying to send a work email and the light went off. Iman, 4 years old, tells me at this particular moment “the Israeli Army came one time and I wasn’t scared!”
We look at pictures of the family: Mahmoud (dad), Palestine (mum), Hiba (13), Mos’ab (11), Amal (8), Iman (4) and Saad (2).
My last night at the Issa’s family was a memorable night we were all sitting on the floor joking and laughing.

On Tuesday, December 14th, we conduct a training with the new management of the Palestine Fair Trade Producers Company (PFTPC). Drinking a lot of Arabic coffee… I’ve missed that.

I realize how much I’ve missed speaking in Arabic and listening to the farmers’ updates on different issues they face in their day to day life. We ended up spending a lot of time talking about the Fairtrade Minimum Price and Premium and we agree on the next steps to move forward.

By the end of the day, I am back with the Issa family in Anin, a village in Jenin. The Issa’s are always welcoming and make me feel part of the family. It’s not my first time staying here and the kids are used to me now. I help them with their homework in English and they tell me jokes.

Later while trying to send a work email and the light went off. Iman, 4 years old, tells me at this particular moment “the Israeli Army came one time and I wasn’t scared!”

We look at pictures of the family: Mahmoud (dad), Palestine (mum), Hiba (13), Mos’ab (11), Amal (8), Iman (4) and Saad (2).

My last night at the Issa’s family was a memorable night we were all sitting on the floor joking and laughing.

FLO in Palestine: Waiting at the Border

The Producer Services and Relations (PSR) Unit at FLO International provides training in local languages, guidance on certification requirements, help in accessing new markets, and facilitates relationships between buyers and producers.

Chiraz Skhiri, the Fairtrade Regional Coordinator for the Middle East and North Africa, is travelling to Palestine this week to visit with local farmers and provide training to cooperatives and other producer organizations.

Her first entry chronicles the difficulties of crossing into Palestine:

I arrived at Allenby Bridge at 09.30 am where the long wait for no apparent reason begins. We are stuck in this no-man’s land between Jordan and Palestine waiting for a little hand to stick out the window and wave us in.

After 45 minutes and 5 buses in queue, we are in to the inspection office! I give my luggage to a Palestinian worker who gives my passport to the Israeli Officer. He applies a bar code sticker and a category number. I am in category 2. I don’t really understand what this means, but I do know that it is not category 6: full search.

At 10.30 am, I enter the first control station. Someone takes my passport and tells me “please sit down.” Ten minutes later a female officer comes, takes me aside, and asks me the regular questions, “Where you going in Israel? Where are you staying in Israel?”

Then comes the tricky question, “What is the purpose of your visit?” Here I have to explain what Fairtrade is without mentioning the words farmers, agriculture, olive oil or that I am going to Jenin.

After 10 minutes first round of questions I am asked to wait and then a smiling security officer appears, she recognized the picture on my passport. Relieved, I proceed to passport control.

Passport control… yeah the computers are out so we wait another hour. Computer back on for work… I thought I would just have passport stamped and then be released but not really, it was too good to be true.

After 3 hours, I can leave finally. I never really understand why I cannot just enter the country and do my work. And after all of that, they can see it but the only thing they tell me is that they like my name. I am improving though on the waiting time.

I am finally in the bus to Jenin. 

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