Olive oil from Palestine is one of our longest-standing products, and one from a uniquely complicated country of origin.
We now sell up to 25,000 litres of Palestinian olive oil every year, but more impressive than this quantity is the work that goes into it. The ‘Olive Oil from Palestine’ campaign has been active for 20 years and purchases olive oil from over 500 farming families in the conflict zone.
We have supported the campaign since its inception. At the time, gebana founder Ursula Brunner was herself involved in their working group, because right from the start, their commitment aligned with ours: generating income for local populations, even in difficult regions.
Working Amid Walls and Roadblocks
And Palestine is certainly one of those difficult regions. The founding of the Zurich-based association was sparked by the second Intifada, which made living conditions extremely difficult for the Palestinian population. Among the founders were Palestinians and Jews who were affected by the situation and wanted to do something for the people in the area by starting local development projects.
For the Palestinian population, the ongoing conflict in the Middle East not only means life under occupation, it also hinders the work of local farmers. The construction of the wall between Israeli and Palestinian settlements destroyed thousands of olive trees and damaged the best areas for cultivation. The time and costs for transport of their products are high, as they are systematically held up by road blocks and security crossings.
With the sale of olive oil and Zaa’tar spice mix, the campaign may not be able to change the political deadlock, but it can provide targeted support to the local population and its economy by building infrastructure and investing in education.
6 million francs for local projects
The project was initially small in scale, with individual stalls in Switzerland. The response was great from the very beginning. "While the stand in front of Pestalozzi-Wiese on Bahnhofstrasse in Zurich was being set up, the first customers were already waiting to buy these special products – and to show their solidarity for Palestine," says Ursula Hayek, who was there for the first sales campaigns.
Moreover, 23 tonnes of olive oil were ordered in the campaign’s anniversary year through sales in the gebana shop. By way of comparison, 9 tonnes were ordered the year it was founded. This increase benefits the farming families as well as the local population, because for every litre sold, 2 Swiss francs go to local projects.
With the solidarity contribution and additional donations, the campaign has already implemented the local conversion to organic olive cultivation with the help of local farmers' cooperatives. In addition, it was able to install solar systems in South Hebron, finance kindergartens in Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon and train nurses for the Palestinian Medical Relief Society. Since the association was founded, over 6 million Swiss francs have gone to projects in Palestine.