Here it won people over with it’s distinctive peppery taste and by 2009, Zaytoun’s was the first ever olive oil to gain fair trade status.
She says, “In Abu Asim's cooperative in Asira village most farmers, who could not afford to build a house or send their kids to school, can now do so. Asim himself could not afford to send all of his children to higher education but, thanks to the olive oil trade, he can. Two of his sons have now graduated.”
Devlin believes, however, that the benefits stretch far beyond the financial for farmers. She explains, “Contact with the international community is critical so that farming communities under occupation don't feel isolated.For Palestinians, most of whom cannot travel easily, the cultural exchange that olive oil trading has created, inspires them to create more opportunities for their community. This includes organising youth and sports groups. Young people are feeling more heartened by the contact with supporters and customers from around the world, and now that none of the crop goes to waste in the fields, they’re more enthusiastic about supporting their families at harvest time.”
Despite olive oil still being their best selling product, Zaytoun also buys almonds and maftoul from 1700 farming families, as well as working with hundreds of palestinian soap, za’atar and date suppliers in Jericho, Nablus and the Galilee.
Devlin says, “The dates sell well at Christmas and Ramadan.They're important to the Muslim community as a symbol of support for Palestinians under occupation. We sell through wholesalers into health food shops, fair trade shops and delicatessens, as well as direct to our many regional distributors around the country.”
With Zaytoun however, their involvement doesn’t stop with just trade. Every year, two trips to Palestine are organised that give people the opportunity to meet farmers and witness the important work that Zaytoun does for themselves. Devlin talks us through the ’Harvest Tour’ and ’Olive Picking Trips,’
“The tour includes visits to producer facilities and communities to see the products being made, and talk to the farmers about their lives and the difference that trade with Zaytoun makes. Participants also visit support and advocacy organisations, who work on behalf of the farming communities, to address some of the injustices of the occupation. The tour usually ends with a colourful harvest celebration of music, food and dancing.”
“The picking trips are for those who want to live and work alongside the farmers for two weeks to help them safely bring the harvest home. International presence in the fields can make all the difference to gaining access to the trees, whether through negotiation with the Israeli army or because violent Israeli settlers in the West Bank are less likely to attack Palestinian farmers if they know they are being witnessed by international volunteers.”
If you are interested in participating in either of these trips or would like to find out more about Zaytoun’s products, please visit their website.
Reviewed by Francesca Bassenger, images courtesy of Zaytoun.