Thursday, February 3, 2011

Palestinian Fair Trade entrepreneur Nasser AbuFarha featured in Businessweek

US Campaign partner organization Canaan Fair Trade has been featured in Bloomberg Businessweek, the second largest financial publication in the US. For people in the U.S. wanting to purchase Canaan's products, our store contains a selection of its organic olive oils and soaps, and every purchase there supports our important work in the U.S.

Green Business: 
From the West Bank, Fair-Trade Olives

A Palestinian entrepreneur boosted the price paid for organic olives and has grown to become the West Bank s biggest exporter of olive oil

January 20, 2011
By David Wainer and Jonathan Ferziger

Nasser Abufarha was sipping coffee at a Madison (Wis.) café called Michelangelo's a few years back when it dawned on him how he might help struggling olive growers in his native Palestine. If the crowd could derive virtuous pleasure from mugs of "fair trade" organic coffee, they might be convinced of the superiority of organic oil pressed from West Bank olives.

Abufarha, a graduate student in anthropology at the University of Wisconsin in Madison, wrapped up his dissertation on suicide bombers and headed home to the West Bank. The olive farming industry there was in a shambles. Yields were low due to poor soil treatment, and farmers were barely breaking even—leading many to abandon their fields and migrate to Palestinian cities, where unemployment hovered around 40 percent.

Tapping into savings from running a Middle Eastern restaurant in Madison, Abufarha in 2004 invested some $100,000 to start a company he called Canaan Fair Trade. The son of a watermelon farmer, he offered growers nearly twice the going rate during the olive harvest that year and soon started shipping oil to the U.S. and Europe. "It clicked to me—if we can take [the fair trade] concept to Palestine, we can bring wider market access to Palestinian farmers," Abufarha says in lightly accented English while piloting his mud-splattered Land Rover along the potholed road to his olive press in the village of Burqin.