Land of Canaan Foundation:
An Organic Approach To Farming
Diane Adkin, co-founder and Land of Canaan Foundation board member shares her insight and experience serving the philanthropic arm of Canaan Fair Trade, a West Bank social enterprise that produces beautiful bottles of organic, extra virgin olive oil.
What are some ways The Land of Canaan Foundation supports farmer families?
The Land of Canaan Foundation works in partnership with the *Palestine Fair Trade Association (PFTA) and the Canaan Center for Organic Research and Extension (CORE), two Palestinian nonprofits working to create hope and solutions for communities in Palestine. They’re farmer driven, meaning the farmers themselves set the priorities to address the biggest problems pertaining to their harvest. We provide support to address their specific needs and challenges, rather than a top-down approach to giving often implemented by NGOs.
What impact has Trees for Life had on farmer families?
Olive trees are like family members to Palestinian farm families, and through the Trees for Life program, small scale, young and women farmers are provided with olive and almond saplings of their own to cultivate. Implemented by the PFTA, in over eleven years more than 125,000 olive trees have been planted, making it possible for farmers to build a sustainable living for their families. Partnering with the PFTA cooperatives has been a key component to the success of the program because it's a channel through which farmers have a voice and can introduce their olives to a worldwide market that would otherwise be out of reach.
Does The Land of Canaan Foundation play a role in addressing environmental concerns?
Yes. In 2014, CORE was formed to respond to a farmer’s worst nightmare with research and training. CORE's director holds a PhD in Bio-agricultural Science and leads a team of researchers in Organic Agriculture Studies and Plant Pathology. One of their projects focused on a particular plant pest, Almond Seed Wasp, that was contributing to a decline in the cultivation of almond trees.
By collecting data samples from almond orchards to identify the problem, they were able to implement a solution. In this case, they developed training workshops to inform the farmers on the pest they’re dealing with and how to manage it along with instruction on organic farming methods that, in the end, improved the quality and value of their almonds. This was huge for Palestine!
So whether our funding is directed toward CORE research or PFTA scholarships, we are constantly seeking organic farming solutions. The farmers want this. As a **Sebastia farmer told me, “I am the first one to eat my olives.”
Almond orchard in the West Bank. Photo by Ahmed Alomary
Do you have a favorite experience with any of the farmers you’ve worked with that you’d like to share?
I’m reminded of Fatima, a micro-loan recipient who started a dairy business. I once asked her "what can we do for you?" Her response was to put more women like her in business. She reminded me of that Palestinian generosity I've come to know well always with community in mind, and that it's not about aid but lifting people who want to do the same for others. At the end of the day, we support working families so that they can survive, hopefully even thrive.
It's amazing what a modest amount of money can do. We can start a woman in her own business, or convert a tractor to run on used falafel oil, or train model farmers who then train their own village in techniques to save their crops.
Our projects offer a chance to be heard and provide the tools to get to work. Palestinians want to work and support themselves, and it feels good to know we can help them do that.
*The PFTA farmers are the first in the world to be fair trade certified for olive oil.
**Sebastia is town in the northern hills of the West Bank.