New Project: Women’s Honey Co-operative

15 April 2013

The Center for Freedom and Justice, a non-profit organization in the Palestinian village of Beit Ommar in Hebron District, is looking at new agricultural projects to support its inhabitants.

The Center for Freedom and Justice was established to address the lack of community development and has been organizing programs in rural Palestinian communities. Due to various problems concerning the Israeli occupation of the West Bank the Palestinian agricultural life is severely constrained. The organization aims to improve the lives of rural residents by supporting them to remain steadfast on their land so that confiscation of land and settlement expansion will be harder to accomplish.

The agricultural life of Palestinian communities in the West Bank suffers from many kinds of challenges,
for example,
• Settlement expansion
• Confiscation of agricultural land
• Settler attacks on the trees and the land
• Settlers violence, especially during harvest time
• Restrictions by Israel on planting of the land
• Restrictions on export of Palestinian goods

In Beit Ommar 1400 acres of fertile land has been lost due to settlement expansion and another 2500 acres are under threat. Due to this the income of the Palestinian farmers has dropped massively and they have lost millions of shekels between them. In Beit Ommar over 70 % of the 17 000 inhabitants rely on agriculture as their primary source of income.

One of the projects started by the Center for Freedom and Justice is the Women’s Honey Co-operative. This project seeks to overcome the problems mentioned, by providing women of Beit Ommar with a sustainable source of income as well as economic stability and self-sufficiency. Women where chosen by the Center for Freedom depending on specific criteria will be taking part in the running and the day-to-day work of this project through the establishment of twenty-four commercial apiaries. The women will improve their skill-bases as they learn all of the stages of honey production and as well they will gain experience in other fields such as marketing and distribution.

Women of Beit Ommar have chosen to pursue honey production as a source of income. This is because:
• Honey production takes up less space than other agricultural projects and can be transported if necessary. This makes it more secure against land confiscation and settlement expansion
• As there are large numbers of potentially angry bees the Women’s Honey Co-operative is not an appealing target for settlers to attack. Women therefore may feel a little more secure as they work with them
• Honey, as a less perishable product, is not so vulnerable to Israeli export restrictions that often hold up the products for months at the time

A majority of women in Beit Ommar are homemakers who don’t have an income of their own. This means that there are times when some families are without any income at all because the fathers are imprisoned by Israel. This makes the families very vulnerable.

The Women’s Honey Co-operative will solve parts of the problem by helping the women involved support their own families economically. This project will hopefully increase the family income by 50%.

So far the bees and the hives have arrived in Beit Ommar. They have been set up for the summer in a sheltered place and the women have had their first training session in honey production by professors from the Arroub Technical College.

It is expected that it will take seven months to train the women and set up a web page for distribution as well networking for outlets inside Palestine and outside in the international community.

The first honey collection is expected to take place in August 2013 once the bees have established themselves. The hopes are for 325 kilogram of honey each year.

In Palestine there is a great need for meaningful, long-term employment for women. A further benefit of the Women’s Honey Co-operative is that the project provides a new business model for an extended economic program managed and directed by women in Palestine as on the whole most NGOs are organized and run by men.

The Women’s Honey Co-operative is funded by the Belgian government and executed under the supervision of the Center for Freedom.