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Fairtrade Changes Lives – The Voice of Zaytoun

During Fairtrade Fortnight we were lucky enough to join in the Zaytoun producer tour as it passed through Yorkshire. It was a really understated event. A room packed full of local business people and the Keighley community, listening intently as Manal Abdallah and Abu Rafat from Canaan Fair Trade shared their humbling story.


We know that Fairtrade, and fair trade, changes lives. We know that buying Fairtrade is one simple action that we can all take to help change the world. To hear this, first hand, from the very people whose lives are changed because of Fairtrade, was incredibly moving.


"zaytoun"Canaan Fair Trade works across Palestine with 17,000 farmers, in 43 villages to export olive oil to 17 countries across the world. 14% of this olive oil is brought into the UK by Zaytoun, and sold through a myriad of independent shops.


Canaan Fair Trade works with farmers to ensure sustainability. Manal Abdallah was keen to stress that Canaan have developed lots of programmes to support their farmers. They do set a minimum price for olives, no matter what the market price, but Fairtrade is not just about price.


One of the many projects established by Canaan Fair Trade is “Trees For Life”, an initiative that in the last few years has planted 50,000 trees. An essential project, replacing not only trees, but also livelihoods, that have been uprooted during land confiscation throughout the conflicts.


As Abu Rafat explained, the olive tree is more than just a tree. “It is our identity. Our income, inherited from many generations. We have a responsibility to pass on to our children.” He shared a local saying: “They planted it so we eat, we plant so they eat.”


The importance of the tree and all it symbolises made it heartbreaking to learn that throughout the conflicts in Palestine, 2000 year old trees have been uprooted. “The olive tree is sacred. It is one of our children.”


“The conflicts have brought us many challenges. We are living under occupation and we have in-access to our land,” Abu Rafat went on, “Many farmers don’t have access to water, wells are closed, and there is continuous violence.”


It is difficult to imagine that amongst all this despair and conflict there is hope. In 2006, farmers had abandoned their land, receiving just $2 per kg of oil produced it wasn’t worth farming. But Canaan Fair Trade offered farmers double. And that has made a huge difference to small holders. Abu Rafat was one of the first to trade with Canaan, other farmers soon heard of the possibilities, they formed co-operatives, they came back to their lands and they reinvested their time.


Abu Rafat was proud to share that he now lives in a house and is able to pay his son’s University fees. “Thank you to people buying Fairtrade products. It helps us. You are the reason we make a dignified living.”


This is just a snap shot. There is so much more to Canaan Fair Trade and to Zaytoun. They have also opened up global markets for women to produce za’taar herbs, cous cous, almonds and soap. Empowering women to set up their own co-operatives and earn independent incomes. Changing the world.


fairandfunky don’t stock Zaytoun, yet! We’re working on it. We do stock Visionary Soap – who use Palestinian Olive Oil in their beauty products – but that’s a different story…..

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