Cross-border Collaboration with Israel through the Olive Industry

Cross-border Collaboration with Israel through the Olive Industry






Olives have been the foundation of rural economies in

Palestine and Israel for generations. Woven into the

very fabric of these societies, olive trees also have

meaning far beyond their economic value, and they

have become triggers for conflict.

Today the olive oil industry is a major source of

income in both areas. In Palestine, over 100,000 families

depend on the industry, which accounts for over 10

percent of GDP. However, tremendous unrealized

production capacity and financial opportunity still exist

in the region. Basic improvements in technology and

improved cooperation can provide significant

economic and social benefits for both Palestinians and


Building on the shared importance of the olive industry

to both Palestinians and Israelis, the Near East

Foundation (NEF) is working with 26 Palestinian and

12 Israeli communities to improve profitability of the

olive sector through cross-border cooperation. This

Participants Over 1,500 (farmers, oil mill operators,

intermediaries, and distributors)

Timeframe 2011-2014

Budget $1.3 Million



Deliver real economic results to project

participants: improve income, olive production,

olive oil quality, and sector competitiveness

Strengthen grassroots, cross-border economic


Leverage economic cooperation to promote

peace and reconciliation

At least 1,500 individuals and/or firms improve

income from olive oil

At least 400 community leaders participate in 20

cross-border training programs

At least 20 collaborative activities organized

jointly by Palestinian and Israeli organizations

NEF has trained over 3,000 Palestinian olive farmers in improved production,

harvesting, and post-harvest processing techniques.

initiative leverages relationships that NEF developed

over seven years working in the sector in the northern

West Bank and that Peres Center has developed in

Israel over a similar timeframe.


This project is building a foundation for grassroots

peace and reconciliation between Palestinians and

Israelis at a time when diplomacy is at a standstill. It is

supported by the U.S. Agency for International

Development and implemented in partnership with the

Palestinian Center for Agricultural Research and

Development (PCARD), the Peres Center for Peace,

and Syracuse University.

Using strategies proven successful in previous NEF

work in the region, project activities are designed to

increase olive productivity and income, improve

olive oil quality, and strengthen competitiveness in

the marketplace. The approach fosters cross-border,

grassroots economic cooperation to build strong

432 Crouse Hinds Hall • 900 S. Crouse Avenue • Syracuse, NY 13244 • 315-428-8670 •

elationships of trust, mutual understanding, and

shared financial interest.

NEF's approach promotes mutually beneficial

cooperation at all stages of the olive oil value chain –

the sequence of processes and exchanges that a

product like olive oil goes through as it moves “from

seed to supermarket.” NEF works with a range of

staekholders: olive farmers, mill operators, input

suppliers, intermediaries, and distributors. The value

chain – and the relationships among these stakeholders

– extends across the Israel-Palestine border currently,

but it functions so poorly that locally produced olive oil

cannot compete with lower cost alternatives

domestically or internationally. Everyone suffers.

Our project targets six clusters of villages in the West

Bank and Israel, in areas where NEF and its partners

already enjoy well-established relationships. We are

working with over 1,500 stakeholders to increase

income, production yields, profitability, and crossborder


The value chain approach is designed to benefit both

the system as a whole and individual stakeholders.

Project activities result in systemic changes in the

sector that deliver improvements along the value chain

and in overall market competitiveness – encouraging

NEF has helped Palestinian olive oil mill owners improve the quality of their

product and generate greater profits through facility upgrades and training in

new management techniques.


Olive Oil without Borders

the participation of a continually expanding group of

individual stakeholders. The market therefore helps

build cross-border relationships, trust, and mutual

understanding and opens regular channels of communication

among individuals, firms, and communities.


A series of strategic activities will help groups of olive

farmers, producers, and distributors identify shared

interests, common constraints, and joint opportunities

of mutual benefit. Project activities are grounded in

Value Chain Analysis and Development (or VCAD)

methods, which provide a structured, de-politicized

framework for dialogue, planning, and collaboration

among diverse social and economic groups.

Build a shared vision for the olive industry among

Palestinians and Israelis through a joint assessment and

a comprehensive, stakeholder-led action plan.

The first stage of the VCAD process is a joint

assessment of the olive industry, emphasizing crossborder

issues. It is built around consultations with a

full range of key stakeholders including suppliers,

producers, sellers, and government officials.

The assessment provides input for a forum bringing

together representatives from different groups to

develop a shared vision and action plan for improving

the performance of the sector overall. This process

provides an opportunity to promote dialogue between

Israeli and Palestinian olive industry stakeholders. The

action plan identifies critical constraints in the industry

that prevent collaboration and identifies ways to

address these key constraints.

Facilitate industry advancements and cross-border

economic collaboration through training, technical

assistance, and infrastructure investments.

NEF and its partners will provide training and

specialized technical assistance to increase the

profitability of olive production, improving postharvest

storage and processing, and improving olive oil

quality through better olive mill management. Given

the current state, particulalry in the West Bank,

432 Crouse Hinds Hall • 900 S. Crouse Avenue • Syracuse, NY 13244 • 315-428-8670 •

tremendous improvements are possible with very

simple techniques. For example, in NEF’s first

“Farmer Field School” in Assira, controled trials

demonstrated that oil production increased by 80

percent through low-tech, low-cost drip irrigation,

fertilization with humic acid, and control of olive flies.

NEF is building a network of “lead farmers” – opinion

leaders, early adopters, and respected farmers in the

clusters of villages (34 communities total). NEF works

with these individuals first, and they subsequently train

others in their communities.

Each cluster establishes and manages a Farmer Field

School – a field site where participants learn improved

techniques, gain experience in their application, and

conduct experiments to compare the results of

different management practices. We employ principles

of peer-to-peer learning and farmer-to-farmer extension

at the Field Schools.

Promote policy reform and institutional development

through advocacy and strategic communications.

NEF will organize workshops to identify policy and

other trade barriers impacting both olive sector market

competitiveness and cross-border collaboration. We

will work closely with the Palestinian and Israeli Olive

Oil Councils and other agricultural policymakers to

address trade barriers and align norms and standards.

Simple post-harvest techniques such as the use of plastic boxes instead of

sacks to transport olives from orchard to oil mill significantly reduce spoilage

and increased overall oil quality and shelf life.


Olive Oil without Borders

Through strategic communications, we will target key

groups with the ability to influence change, such as

industry stakeholders, regional and local policymakers,

and donor communities. We will work with local

communications specialists and with faculty and

graduate students of Syracuse University’s Newhouse

School of Public Communications to prepare multimedia

presentations to amplify local voices.

A reconciliation advisory group has been established to

guide the project. The group, which will grow with

time, will document the experience, draw lessons, and

share them with a broad audience to influence the

enabling environment. The objective is to create a

grassroots consituency capable of advocating for policy

change in favor of cross-border economic collaboration

and reconciliation.


NEF's cross-border team of olive oil and agricultural

development specialists are among the most respected

experts in Israel and Palestine. Our reconciliation

advisory group is highly experienced in conflict management,

negotiation, and reconciliation in the region.

The project team is a true representation of crossborder

collaboration, bringing together individuals and

institutions from Palestine, Israel, and the United

States, many with significant experience fostering

regional cooperation in the olive oil industry. Partner

organizations include the Palestinian Center for

Agricultural Research and Development, a

Palestinian NGO that NEF helped found, which is

home to some of the foremost agricultural and rural

development specialists in the region. Another partner,

Peres Center for Peace, has played a pivotal role in

recent advances in both Jewish and Arab sectors of the

Israeli olive oil industry. Our U.S. partner, Syracuse

University’s Maxwell School, has played an important

role in training intellectual leaders across the

Middle East. The Maxwell School will provide overall

leadership in achieving conflict mitigation and

reconciliation goals through its Program for the Advancement

of Research on Conflict and Collaboration.

432 Crouse Hinds Hall • 900 S. Crouse Avenue • Syracuse, NY 13244 • 315-428-8670 •

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