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March 19, 2010

Fair Trade Fortnight Brings University Center on Tour in the United Kingdom

Fair TradeBethlehem University's Fair Trade Development Center (FTDC) was part of the Palestinian delegation to the Fair Trade Fortnight 2010 in the United Kingdom from 21 February through 8 March 2010. The Palestinian Farmers' Union and Oxfam Great Britain were also part of the Palestinian delegation to the event—an annual nationwide fair trade awareness campaign involving local councils, universities, schools, supporters of the Palestinian cause and churches.

During the delegation’s visits to campaign sites in England, Scotland and Wales, FTDC Project Coordinator Jamil Hijazin explained the socioeconomic and political context of FTDC work.  The center’s development philosophy, he explained, aims to provide Palestinian partner cooperatives with the managerial, organizational, financial and marketing skills necessary to sustain sound livelihoods. He also highlighted the FTDC's role in enhancing awareness of fair trade and coaching cooperatives through the fair trade certification process.

Fair TradeMahmoud Al Qadi, a farmer from the center-affiliated East Bani Zeid Cooperative, told his cooperative's success story. Fair trade certification has changed cooperative members’ lives and their agricultural practices, he said. Becoming fair trade certified enabled him and fellow farmers to produce very high quality olive oil that is both extra virgin and organic. This attention to detail meant olive oil that met export specifications, opening up new markets for their product. Al Qadi also expressed the cooperative’s gratitude for the assistance received from the FTDC and the Palestinian Farmers’ Union.

Ultimately, said Mohammad Sawafta of Oxfam Great Britain, opening up export markets helps Palestinian olive farmers live in dignity, despite the harsh economic and political realities they face. Oxfam Great Britain works with the FTDC to support Palestinian olive oil producers.

“The Fair Trade fortnight was a great opportunity for FTDC and partners, as an emphasis on their work to enhance fair trade principles and practice,” Hijazin said. The event highlighted the role fair trade plays in the livelihood of Palestinian small-scale farmers and producers, he continued, whose olive oil, almonds, couscous, pickled olives and dates find substantial foreign demand. “It was also a good opportunity for the Palestinians to highlight the hardships they face on a daily basis, how fair trade has changed the lives of many Palestinian farmers and its positive impact on the quality of Palestinian agricultural produce.”

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Read more about the East Bani Zeid Cooperative’s journey here


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