An unlikely friendship grows without borders
"I planted the first olive tree with my father in 1950, when I was 5 years old. And since then I've been with the olive and its industry."
Thousands of families in the West Bank, build their livelihoods around the olive oil industry. Olive trees offer economic opportunity and hold cultural significance.
Ayala and Khaled met four years ago through the “Olive Oil Without Borders” project. Workshops and trainings on production techniques united them. But, it was their shared love for their profession that helped them see how much they could learn from each other’s expertise.
Ayala says this project united her with Palestinian farmers and olive oil producers—people she rarely had the opportunity to meet. A shared passion for olive farming showed her that their similarities were greater than their differences.
Together, they are learning about pre-harvesting, parasite control, supplementary irrigation and quality control through olive oil tasting seminars and other activities.
These renovated mills make manufacturing more professional and increase the quality of oil production.
In 2013 the project supported an agreement that fostered greater partnership by allowing Israeli citizens to purchase Palestinian olive oil for the first time in a decade. As a result, Palestinian farmers increased their revenue by $20 million in less than two years.
In the past five years USAID has helped more than 2,600 Israeli and Palestinian growers produce better olive oil through the “Olive Oil Without Borders” project. Implemented by the Near East Foundation, the initiative unites olive farmers, mill operators and olive oil distributors through workshops that improve their farming skills to increase olive oil production and profits.
This project is just one of dozens that are supported through USAID’s Conflict Management and Mitigation (CMM) program. In many cases, these projects bring Israelis and Palestinians together for the first time.
Since 2004, the U.S. government has invested $84 million in more than 100 CMM grants supporting activities that bring together Israelis and Palestinians to work on issues of common concern and promote tolerance and peaceful coexistence.
The CMM program is part of the U.S. Government’s effort to support people-to-people peacebuilding efforts worldwide. These activities bring together individuals of different backgrounds and help communities address conflict, reconcile differences and promote greater understanding. By working on common goals around economic development, environment, health, education, sports, arts and information technology, USAID is building more democratic and resilient societies.
Photos by Bobby Neptune and Lubna Rifi for USAID