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.
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.
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.
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.
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.