Canaan Fair Trade: Preserving culture and creating new perspectives

High-quality and fair trade olive oil: As Naturland Fair partner standing for organic and fair from a single source, the Palestinian farmer-cooperative Canaan Fair Trade opens prospects for more than 1100 farmers in Palestine. Basema Baramehs is one of them. Get to know her and the cooperative in this article. 

Ann-Kristin Schmidt, Naturland e. V.

Basema Barameh's house stands in the hillside village of Anza in the West Bank. From the balcony of her living room, there is a wonderful panoramic view of the vast countryside. Olive trees as far as the eye can see. The trees characterize this rural, yet densely populated region. Commitment and ecological awareness are part of Basema Barameh's life.

Olive trees characterize the rural yet densely populated region of the West Bank.

She owns an olive grove with an area of just over one hectare, which she cultivates according to Naturland Fair guidelines. "I have a very close bond with my olive trees, I know every tree". She is the mother of four children, and her husband works as a truck driver. The maintenance and pruning work in the grove is done by the individual family members, sometimes assisted by outside labor. But at harvest time in October, all six Baramehs work together.

In Palestine, more than 100,000 families make their living from the olive harvest, cultivating about 80 percent of the land used for agriculture. Here, agri-culture in the true sense of the word encompasses the rural farmer lifestyle of many Palestinians. The olive farmers’ cooperative Canaan Fair Trade wants to preserve and at the same time create global market access to this tradition.

Behind Canaan is the cultural anthropologist Dr. Nasser Abufarha. He also founded the Palestine Fair Trade Association (PFTA) in 2004, thereby laying the foundation for organic agriculture in the West Bank. The two organizations have since complemented each other: PFTA advises, trains, and supports small farmers in converting to organic farming, while Canaan Fair Trade provides a trading and distribution platform for over 1,100 Palestinian smallholder families in 43 villages. About 40 employees process, market, and export the produced raw materials and finished products.

Basema Barameh grows many things for self-sufficiency in her garden, from chickpeas to mint and parsley to beans and potatoes. Her orchard offers an immense variety: clementine, cactus, lime, orange, pomegranate, lemon, walnut, and fig stand close together here.

They all grow in harmony with nature. This is because Naturland considers and certifies the entire farm, not just the olive grove alone. Thus, the organic standards always apply to all branches of the farm: livestock, vegetables, fruit, and cereals. 

The Naturland standard always applies to the whole farm: vegetables, fruit, and cereals are grown organically. 

360° Fair: Naturland Fair from North to South

In 2010, Naturland enhanced its standards with the voluntary Naturland Fair trademark. It stands for organic and fair from a single source. It guarantees that farmers worldwide can make a living from their products and is a base to create added value for nature and people. Naturland Fair standards specify responsible entrepreneurship, fair prices, trading relationships based on partnership, societal engagement, support of local economies, and social commitment. One of the first cooperatives in the Naturland Fair network operating according to these principles is Canaan Fair Trade.   

Naturland Fair guarantees fair producer prices, regional raw material sourcing, joint quality assurance, social commitment, a corporate strategy and transparency on a fair alignment, as well as reliable trading relations.

Canaan Fair Trade sees fair trade as a social entrepreneurial project: holistic, innovative and community-building

The vision behind Canaan Fair Trade goes beyond trading high-quality, organically grown food. From the beginning, the idea was to apply social entrepreneurial approaches to agriculture, under the banner of fair trade. The goal is to pass on the culture and knowledge of farming practices in Palestine to future generations and to value olive farmers – through respect, long-term partnerships, and fair pay. Thus, Canaan Fair Trade is committed to paying a fair premium, fair working conditions, direct payment, a purchase guarantee, social and environmental responsibility, and transparency.

The holistic approach is well illustrated by the example of the fair premium. In different parts, it goes directly to the family, to the PFTA to cover operating costs, and to the villages for community development projects decided on by the communities themselves. This promotes shared decision-making and a sense of responsibility for the village community.

"We women and mothers have the duties to pass on the ancient tradition of olive culture to the next generation, to transmit agricultural knowledge to them."

Being president of the local women's association, Basema Barameh shows her community stewardship. She regrets that schools and universities in many places still focus solely on conventional farming methods. In her view, the future is in modern technology that makes the hard field work much easier. In Basema Barameh's view, these are not opposites, but perfect complements that would also make it possible to get young people interested in cultivating olives again.

Canaan Fair Trade shares this understanding and offers farmers workshops that enrich their ancient knowledge with new, innovative approaches. For example, they learn about the advantages of olive branch prunings chipped down into wood chips as mulch material, and planting more food-producing trees and vines such as figs, pomegranate, grapes, carob, and almonds.

Naturland Fair partners are standing for organic and fair from a single source. Basema Baramehs is one of them.

The Canaan olive oil carries the Naturland Fair mark: A voluntary mark that stands for organic and fair from one source.

In a social entrepreneurial spirit, Canaan Fair Trade accompanies Palestinian farmers to economic independence and gives their children educational opportunities by awarding scholarships. At the same time, the Naturland Fair partner has launched the "Trees for Life" program to reforest olive groves destroyed by the Middle East conflict. This benefits small farming families and enables young farmers to enter the olive oil market.

In addition, Canaan Fair Trade also strives to improve environmental stewardship by raising awareness of the food’s impact on the environment. Small-scale regenerative agricultural practices improve soil and water quality, protect biodiversity, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Ultimately, they counteract climate change – and benefit everyone.

"The past generations have planted so we eat. And we plant so future generations will eat."

In their day-to-day work, Basema Barameh and the other farmers behind Canaan Fair Trade align all their efforts to protect their land, their people, and their culture. Their cultivation requires a lot of work. If done fairly, it not only protects the people and ecosystems involved but also secures the basis of life for future generations.

This text is a translation. No guarantee can be given for the correctness.

Natural vegetation grows at the bottom of the olive groves, bringing nutrients into the soil.

Further information: