Since 2005, the Palestinian Fair Trade Association (PFTA) and Canaan Fair Trade (the marketing arm of the PFTA) have organised over 1,700 olive oil farmers in Palestine inot fair trade cooperatives. The Issa family is one of them.
In 2004 Mahmoud worked as a day labourer. With the price of olive oil so low and the economy crippled under occupation he wanted to give up farming his family’s land. Fair trade changed his life. Now he and his extended family are farming olives full time in the traditional manner. Their organic olive oil is produced and marketed by Canaan under the fair trade principles to buyers in the U.S and Europe.
Mahmoud’s entire extended family- there are seven brothes and four sisters – benefit from their land and labours. His brother, Arafat, is full of pride that his oldest daughter, now in high school, was going to be a doctor. She wants to attend medical school.
Arafat’s wife is a member of one of Canaan’s womens cooperatives, making couscous. Arafat’s family is expanding their home by two stories as their lives improve. Another brother is on the Olive Oil Council of Palestine, one of the three PFTA members out of 11. This brothers oldest daughter, Haya, earned a Canaan colege scholarship award this year.
Fair trade cooperatives in Palestine bring back traditions lost in the midst of conflict. They reintroduce a new spiriti nto the work ethic of the villages and renew the social values and ties weakened by the conflict. Farmers received organic and fair trade preimiums over unsustainable market prices. Canaan and the PFTA hae developed modern processing and storage facilities and started severeral community development programs.
With his natural leadershiop skills Mahmoud was elected to the PFTA Board and leader of the local cooperative , one of 43 in 2008. He was a member of the Canaan scholarship committee this year that awarded 10 full four year scholarships to farmers children.
before Fair trade, life was bad. Now, things have improved much and working the land pays off. Mahmoud Issa.
The overall program is coordinated by only a few PFTA employees and by 1,700 owners who volunteer their work for the common good.