Sunday, 12 April 2009

Fair trade creates an olive branch

On 4th April I went to a talk by Hadas Lahav and Samia Nasser, who were visiting Leicester as part of their visit to the UK to raise awareness of Sindyanna. Founded in 1996, Sindyanna in a non-governmental organisation bringing together Arabs and Jews, working together helping farmers and producers in the Arab region of Galilee and the Occupied Territories develop markets for fair trade produce. This creation of economic opportunities and linkages helps develop solutions to the Middle East conflict.

Palestinian producers face tremendous difficulties in accessing markets due to movement restrictions, and have to contend with restricted water supply and damage to olive groves and crops, see info from War on Want. Sindyanna projects provide much needed secure employment for rural Arab women. Only 17 per cent of Arab women in Israel participate in the job market, and those in employment through contractors frequently receive just half of a legal salary.

The olive oil is extra virgin, from the first cold pressing, and some bottling equipment from Italy was purchased recently. In addition to formal trading relationships in developing supply chains for export, there is community involvement, such as volunteers helping with the olive harvest. This year olive oil sales are anticipated to reach 50 tonnes, exported to the US and many European countries including the UK, Austria and even Italy. Twenty Palestinian farmers have worked cooperatively on the expensive and complex process of gaining organic certification for a total of 100 dunan (100,000 square metres) of land.

The olive-oil soap is from Nablus in the West Bank, and sales should reach 60,000 bars this year. The producer has been unable to sell in Israel since 2000. To make its way to export markets has to pass through the Beit Furik military checkpoint. Other Sindyanna products include dried herb mixtures, honey, carob syrup and hand made basketwork. It is hoped that couscous will shortly be another addition to the range. Sindyanna also supports Arab artists and some of their work is featured in the 2010 Bread and Roses calendar.

Sindyanna has had IMO Social and Fair Trade Certification since 2006, in recognition of good conditions for workers and long-term trustful cooperation between trading partners, and is a member of the World Fair Trade Organization. They are looking for more markets for the products, so outlets like health food and fair trade shops might want to drop them a line.


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