POLITIK UND LANDWIRTSCHAFT IN PALÄSTINA – TEIL 2
An article provided by our guest author Fini Hennig
Read part 1 here
„Made in Palestine“ – Ethical consumption and resistance
Considering all the limitations that result from the occupation, it is not surprising that agriculture and consumption are important sites of resistance. Although the situation has worsened during the last two decades, numerous farms, companies and initiatives refuse to be discouraged by the current conditions. They keep on cultivating, producing and maintaining their businesses, often alongside with a social and ecological focus and increased networking.
Farmers founded cooperatives already during the first Intifada in the 1980ies in order to create an alternative to Israeli products. After the failed peace negotiations followed by the second Intifada from 2002-2005, the division of the Palestinian leadership and the increasing power of right-wing parties in Israel, a movement of small business owners is currently being established in Palestine that is trying to make the best out of the worsening situation. This movement not only consists of farmers, but also of businesses and initiatives from other sectors such as architecture, arts and crafts, design and tourism. On the one hand, they aim to strengthen the Palestinian economy, secure livelihoods, as well as maintain and create jobs. On the other hand, they try to preserve and advance traditional agriculture, small trade and handicraft. In the end, they try to reach economic independence from Israel whenever and wherever possible.¹Farmers start working together in cooperatives, creating distribution channels, exchanging knowledge and establishing quality standards. Just as it is the case with Freekeh, farmers return to traditional farming methods and varieties, growing plants that need less water such as almonds. Another project is dedicated to the preservation of local plant varieties by establishing a seed bank (Palestinian Heirloom Seed Library). Cheese factories maintain traditional manufacturing techniques while experimenting with new methods. People start to catch up with global trends, such as the production of craft beer, winemakers start using indigenous grapes for their wines, other initiatives work on permaculture projects. And these are only a few examples.Furthermore, many farmers see themselves as part of the global struggle against agri-monopolists, vanishing biodiversity and GMO, fighting for ecologically and climatically sustainable cultivation methods as well as the preservation of local varieties and biodiversity. Not only do they work for economic independence from Israel, but also from international development aid, which mainly supports industrial agriculture and mass production, with all its negative impacts on climate, local varieties and the environment. Correspondingly, mainly small-scale farmers, and among them often womens’ cooperatives, are the ones who produce so-called baladi-products.
“Baladi” means “from my land” and is commonly used in Palestine for locally grown fruits and vegetables. They are mostly not treated with insectizides and fertilizers and possess a high nutritional value. Although there is no standard for organic farming in Palestine, many producers try at least to adhere to Fair Trade regulations. At the same time, they try to establish their own quality standards, as the Fair Trade regulations cannot always be adapted to regional cultivation requirements. Furthermore, many farmers do not want to produce for the global, but for the local market.
And the local market witnesses an increasing demand in baladi products. Agriculture and the preservation of the land are held dearly in Palestinian society, as well as good food. And good food requires high quality products that many families still prefer to purchase directly from local farmers they know for a long time. In places where this is not possible anymore, initiatives establish delivery services and farmer markets in order to reconnect producers and consumers again.Therefore, baladi products are purchased not only for their excellent taste, but also due to a growing consciousness that the consumption of local products strengthens the Palestinian economy, fosters independence from Israel and contributes to the preservation and advancement of Palestinian culture. Last but not least, what we eat is part of our personal history and shapes our identity. Therefore, the production and consumption of products “Made in Palestine” is an act of peaceful resistance against the occupation and a means of self-preservation – not only on the economical but also on the cultural level.
I think it is time to draw attention to this movement and support it, and this is exactly what Conflictfood is aiming for with its activities in Palestine! The purchase guide „Conscious Choices. A guide to Ethical Consumerism in Palestine“ by Muna Dajani und Lina Isma’il , published by the Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung, provides a great overview of the Palestinian development. The authors present Palestinian food producers, art industries, handicraft businesses, stores and initiatives who are dedicated to production of local products, produced under ecological guidelines and fair working conditions. The guidebook was the main source for this chapter. Fini Hennig is a social anthropologist specialized on the MENA region and currently studying Sustainable Tourism Management at the University for Sustainable Development Eberswalde. She also loves the food of the region and is wiriting her master thesis about Palestinian cuisine and its meaning for constructing a collective Palestinian identity in Palestine and beyond.