A project that has caused a qualitative change in Palestine

 

2006 was the last year of the RC project after 3 years of activities, which, covered most of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. This project was an introduction of organic agriculture in Palestine, and we can say it is the first project, which presented this issue and dealt with all its relevant aspects including, concepts, techniques, demonstrations, establishing of pilot farms and farms conversion. We can summarize the activities of the projects three year as follows: 

 

  • Building the capacities of farmers

This was implemented through conducting training courses, which discuss all farmers are required to know concerning this type of farming. The discussed subjects have increased the farmers experience, for example, the subjects of the first year were about history, concepts and essentials of organic farming, those subjects were improved, step by step, first by passing through compost preparation, until they completed by natural methods for pest and disease management. The farmersí capacity building was not implemented through training courses only, in addition, it included inviting international experts in organic farming, as well as to our local highly experienced extensionists who conducted field visits to farmers and held the needed extension for them.

 

  •  Establishment of Pilot Farm

Three pilot farms were established in Jericho, Qabatia (Jenin), and Gaza. Those farms were considered as a model for farmers, where all crops were planted on an organic basis and all problems which crops were vulnerable to were always solved organically. Through those farms, farmers received the chance to benefit from this live model, in addition to the demonstrations, which were held regularly such as compost preparation, where all interested farmers used attend to follow the process. The project wasn't completed by establishment of those farms, but we can say that RC participated with  Palestinians in struggling against occupation, since the occupation forces destroyed the pilot farm in Gaza more than once, and the project didnít hesitate to repair all damages and rehabilitate it every time.       

 

  • Beginning conversion of 40 farms in West Bank and 15 in Gaza

Since the idea was in its beginning, farmers were not particularly interested in such a type of farming system.  The project has started to converse a limited number of farms, which it supported financially and technically. The surprise was the desire of increasing numbers of farmers to follow this system and the project welcomed them all. Now more that 300 farms are organic in West Bank and Gaza, which means 6140 dunums from the area of Palestine are certified organic farms. The march continues and the number of organic farms in Palestine is increasing.

 

  • Inspection and certification

Farm conversion was accompanied with a follow up and inspection process, by the extensionist of Arab Agronomists Association. The project activities included training of those agronomists on inspection and certification process. Their training varied between locally and internationally, they received some training in Italy and Egypt in cooperation with Center of Organic Agriculture in Egypt COAE and other Italian institutes such as ICIA and AIAB, and inviting international experts to give special training courses in Palestine. By all of the above mentioned, our extensionists became highly qualified. Our staff held the required inspection and follow up visits during 3 years, until the farms completed their conversion period and fulfilled the certification requirements. Our staff fulfilled the certification applications and sent them to COAE, subsequently the farmers received certificates for their farms.                                           

 

  • Local seeds production

The project reminded the farmers of local seeds, which our grandparent, used to depend on in farming systems in Palestine, and store it from one year to another. However, after the presence of the improved seeds, farmers gave up using local seeds, and found it easier to use the modified ones, which have pure commercial targets, and sometimes leads food to loose its nutrition value. The project activities included producing local seeds for different kinds used in Palestine, and training the farmers on producing local seeds and store them, since they are the most convenient for the organic farming system because they adapt with the soil and climate without the need of chemical fertilizers or pesticides.       

 

  • Product marketing process:

The project was not content by only giving knowledge to the farmers, it followed all passing phases by a marketing phase within  the cooperation of Palestinian Fair Trade department , PFU, and Al-Reef Company, which the project supplied with a high-tech oil filling line. The production of the farmers was sold, filled, packed and marketed locally and internationally, utilizing the fair trade principals, which were based on making farmers the first beneficiary. Those products marketing, was supported by the fact that its an organic product which is highly requested in Europe, since Europeans are aware of the advantages of those products to the environment and their health. In addition to their awareness, the price of these goods is directed to the farmers who did their best to produce such a high quality product. However, the marketing process had not been concentrated only on global markets but also a campaign on the importance of such products has been started in local markets by publishing a brochure to create awareness within the consumer of the importance of organic products. The brochure has been distributed both to the local communities and the agricultural centers and markets with all the information about the importance of organic agriculture in Palestine and how to reach the organic products..It is worth mentioning that the brochure was published in both Arabic and English language so it didnít work only on the local level, this brochure was distributed internationally as well, through the events we attended such as Biofach in Japan and Sana in Italy.

The local marketing activities included a store, which has been opened in PARC building, which contained organic products, which are storable, such as honey, different kinds of jams, oil, thyme and cuscus in addition to some seasonal vegetables and fruits.

By entering in the organic farming system, it has opened for new opportunities and windows to the world. Palestine has started to participate in conferences and international events, which are related to organic farming. We have started to exchange knowledge and experience with different countries in the world, and through those participations, Palestinian products have started to appear in international exhibitions and markets with their high quality and the sign ďMade in PalestineĒ This kind of propaganda had always been a dream. .

 

Yes, this project has caused a qualitative change in Palestine and it has an important effect to introduce the organic farming concept in Palestine. This concept, which doesnít include environment and health preservation only, it gave the farmer his right in production and served him with a fair way of marketing.

The project has been realized by joint efforts of RC, AAA, PARC and a moderate supervision of the Italian Cooperation, through their regular monitoring visits and their important comments, for sure we canít ignore the great role of Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs which sponsored the project.

RC is leaving us, but leaving behind a very important and clear positive impact. This project gave us the chance of dreaming and believing of the possibility of achieving it. Now it is one of the important visions of AAA is to make all the lands of Palestine organic. This year we put our feet on the fist step of our march, by establishing the Center of Organic Agriculture in Palestine, which is the first in Palestine where all inspections and certification processes will be completed locally through this center, which will follow international standards.

 The first RC project has ended, which has provoked the organic faming issue in Palestine, but it wonít be the last, our hope is great of such future projects.     

 

The following table summarizes the project activities during 3 year in numbers:

Activity

Implemented

Capacity building training courses

28

Extension field visits

600

Workshops

22

International experts

15

Pilot farms

3

Demonstrations

80

Farms certification

300

Inspection visits  

600

Internal extensionists training

6

External extensionists training

3

Local seeds production

10 kinds

Need assessments studies

3

Oil filling line

1

Shop

1

Brochure

2

Participation in international conferences and events

4

Tools and organic pesticides distribution

300 beneficiary

  

Mr. Khalil Shiha, PARC General Director

Dr. Thameen Hijawi, AAA Director

Rania Khayyat, AAA Public Relations Officer 


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