Tensions between Israel and the Palestinian militant group Hamas are running high after days of fighting. The peace process has faltered and the shadow of terrorism remains as property is vandalised, farmers’ olive trees destroyed, and homes and businesses destroyed. In this environment, the idea of ‘business for peace’ is becoming more popular as companies seek to redefine their role in society, engage with communities and harness the power of commerce for social good, offering an important platform for change.
Sindyanna of Galilee is a beacon of light in all the recent residue smoke of gunfire and missile attacks. Established in 1996, it is a registered non-profit organisation, led by women striving for social change. It operates in the Arab population of the Galilee region in northern Israel, seeking to help growers and producers from the Palestinian Occupied Territories. It works to encourage an understanding between Arabs and Jews in Israel by selling local producers’ olive oil worldwide and investing 100 per cent of the profits in educating women, bridging cultural divides and promoting organic farming. It is creating real economic opportunities for Arabs and Jews by uniting producers around a common goal: supporting their families and achieving positive transformation in the community.
This organisation purchases its raw materials from local producers, over 200 families, both in Israel and in the West Bank, and its line of fair trade products includes items such as olive oil (organic and non-organic), honey, baskets and olive wood soap dishes. It sells its products to more than 35 customers, mainly fair trade companies and various organisations abroad that order at least once a year. Also very satisfyingly, the olive oil marketed by Sindyanna of Galilee has won yet again the Prestige Gold Medal in Terra Olivo competition 2014 in Jerusalem. This is the fifth consecutive time that Sindyanna’s fair trade olive oil has won this international award.
Over the years Sindyanna of Galilee has initiated a number of projects based on its core values of land preservation, environmental considerations, and commerce according to the principles of fair trade. Its main ongoing project is the Oasis organic olive grove where, in partnership with Al-Juzur, it has planted a modern organic olive plantation over an area of ten hectares. The Oasis establishment was also made possible due to the support of Cooperative Chico Mendes, Sindyanna’s fair trade partner in Milan, Italy. The project symbolises this organisation’s goals of fostering a unique cooperation between Arabs and Jews, in order to strengthen the economy of the Arab-Palestinian population. It is one of the few such plantations in Arab agriculture in Israel, if not the only one.
One of the biggest challenges for small-scale producers is access to markets and this model sparks economic activity. It allows people to support each other in the process and importantly, it also empowers women, who often suffer most in conflict situations. This model clearly shows that communities know what they need.
Photo Credit: Sindyanna of Galilee
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