JORDAN VALLEY, West Bank – Growing olives in the dry Jordan Valley of the Palestinian West Bank is not an easy task, but new varieties of olive trees are helping experienced Palestinian olive growers see more successful agricultural production.
“Like most Palestinians here, I inherited this land from my ancestors,” said Hamzeh Dweikat, a farmer who works a field near Nablus. “I started farming two years ago. I have three dunums of land, but with this seedling, I plan to cultivate three more.”
The variety Hamzeh adopted is sturdier and produces fruit faster than the older trees in the region. This seedling, like others planted in Hamzeh’s field, were bred at Talil Nursery in Israel before being brought to the West Bank.
“Olive Oil Without Borders brought these seedlings to us ten months ago at no cost. Within six months, we were able to harvest the trees,” Hamzeh explained.
“This kind of olive is great. We really benefit from our mutual relationship [with Israeli nurseries]. We get the benefit of their improved technology and they get the benefit of our agricultural experience in the region.”
Olive Oil Without Borders, funded by the United States Agency for International Development and implemented by the Near East Foundation in cooperation with the Shimon Peres Center for Peace and the Palestinian Center for Agricultural Research and Development, aims to increase crossborder economic cooperation by building relationships of trust, mutual understanding, and shared financial interest. The project aims for a thirty percent increase in product quantity and quality, through collaborative efforts between Israeli and Palestinian producers.
To achieve this, Israeli and Palestinian farmers shared new techniques and expertise in over 366 training sessions. A total of 10,000 seedlings of new olive varieties will be planted in seven farms and two demonstration stations in the West Bank from Israeli nurseries. The experience of Palestinian farmers help the seedlings to thrive in this semi-arid area.
“We are proud of the work we’ve done,” Hamzeh said. “The new varieties have a fourfold increase in yields and we will soon have enough oil to send to West Bank cities and export to Israel.”