The road to olive farming

Challenges to developing the economy of olive oil in the West Bank

Publication date: 15 October 2010

For thousands of years, the olive tree has been an integral part of the Palestinian landscape: a symbol of Palestinian identity, culture and tradition. The majority of Palestinian farmers are at least partially  dependent on olive cultivation.

In a good year, the olive oil sector contributes over $100 million income annually to some of the poorest communities. Olive cultivation also has strong social and political aspects, as the planting of olive orchards is often an attempt to prevent the confiscation of land by Israel or settlers and to protect Palestinian livelihoods.

While the olive oil sector significantly contributes to economic security and generates income and employment, numerous obstacles prevent the sector from realizing its full potential. A lack of adequate resources and neffective sectoral management coupled with environmental factors, poor production and quality practices have caused stagnation in the development of the sector.

Donors and NGOs need to work with the relevant Palestinian authorities and all stakeholders to develop an effective strategy and improve  coordination and regulation of the sector. With the right investments, and the adoption of improved agricultural practices, Oxfam estimates that the productivity and therefore the incomes of olive farmers could double.

Yet, such investments are meaningless unless Israel, which has occupied the West Bank since 1967, refrains from actions that restrict Palestinian farmers from access to their land and means of livelihoods.

This report shares the learning, success and challenges Oxfam and its partners have faced over a number of years. We believe that if the Palestinian Authority, Israel, the international community, donors and NGOs address the issues outlined in this report the future for Palestinian olive farmers looks bright.