Mary von Aue Nasser Abufarha

Making the most of a disappearing space: Fair trade and perseverance of Palestinian farmers by The Warscapes Podcast

“Palestine may not be in the atlas,” Nasser Abufarha once said, “But we have put it on the shelves.” 

Not too long ago in 2004, there wasn’t a space for olive oil in the fair trade market. Fair trade associations did not include it in their roster of ethically sourced foods, and olive farmers in Palestine –due to heavy restrictions set forth from Israel– were unable to reach international markets.

Unable to find a corporation willing to create a path to trade certification for Palestinian farmers, Nasser Abufarha established the Palestine Fair Trade Association, and developed the first internationally recognized standard for fair trade olive oil. After more than a decade of navigating the limitations set forth by Israel’s restrictions on mobility, dwindling Palestinian land, and obfuscation of water resources, he has been able to support nearly 2,000 farming families in Palestine.

In his book The Making of a Human Bomb: An Ethnography Of Palestinian Resistance, Abufarha explores the effects of containment on Palestinians’ everyday lives, with particular attention to farming communities around his hometown of Jenin. As a result of the Oslo II Accord, the Joint Water Committee (JWC) was established to oversee the water infrastructure within the West Bank, but for decades has continued to reject or obstruct farming capabilities and other water usage in Palestinian areas. For olive farmers today, access to their needed resources are erratic and will not always ensure the productivity needed to sustain the farming business.

“If we have access to water, it’s more than all of the aid that’s going to Palestine,” Nasser told me on the phone. 

In this podcast, Nasser Abufarha discusses social accountability in the consumer goods sector, and tells us about farmers who are getting innovative under colonial restrictions in hopes to bring Palestinian foods to an international market.

Mary von Aue is a freelance writer based in New York. She holds an MA from Columbia University, where she studied classical Islamic literature and the effects of the water crisis in Palestine, a topic she investigated while working in Deheishe Refugee Camp. Mary has lived in 6 countries and writes about history, policy and culture. She is an editor at Warscapes. Twitter @von_owie