As climate change affects age-old seasonal patterns, producers in Palestine are finding their harvests are less predictable. Some farmers are affected more than others due to the diversity of terrain but in general, across the whole of Palestine, both the almond and olive harvest yields have been lower than expected this year.
The olive harvest
The yield was looking good as summer approached, despite springtime fluctuations in temperature resulting in some blossoms not opening up for pollination. However, the summer months bought an extended period of extreme heat which impacted the fruits.
Mohammed Hamada, an olive producer from the Jenin area, explained: “This year we experienced the worst effects from climate change. The yield looked very good just before summer but then the heatwave caused trees to drop a high percent of fruits. It was really shocking to us, as it happened so quickly. This grove of 40 trees would usually produce 120 litres of olive oil, but this year I will be happy if it amounts to 70-80 litres.“
The almond harvest
The wide fluctuation in springtime temperatures meant the almond blossoms, though plentiful thanks to a warm March, fell from the trees before pollination. The health and productivity of the almond trees was also affected by the absence of the usual cold period earlier in the season.
For the organic almond cooperatives of Ti’innk, Taybeh and Yamun, these unseasonal weather patterns, combined with a devastating almond wasp infestation, resulted in a much lower yield than usual. The Fairtrade, non-organic cooperatives such as Aqaba, Sir and Tubas were also affected but not to such an extent.
One producer, Elayyan Abu Arra (pictured above), who grows almonds in Aqaba explained he harvested around 2 tonnes of almonds this year, down from a usual yield of 7-8 tonnes.
Fairtrade supports climate resilience
Over recent years, the Palestine Fair Trade Association has been supporting Palestinian producers to adopt regenerative farming practices to increase their resilience to climate change. Measures such as intercropping and zero tillage reduce moisture loss from the soil during times of intense heat. This work is in line with COP26 goals is to support vulnerable communities to adapt to the effects of climate change.
But regenerative farming practices are not a quick fix, and take time to build up – it’s an investment in livelihoods and food security that will slowly pay back.
As a Fairtrade buyer, Zaytoun procures an annual volume of olives and almonds at harvest season, securing it with advance payment. This offers not only financial security but solidarity with producers faced with the uncertainty of climate change. This challenge comes in the context of decades of a military occupation that denies Palestinian producers the right to manage their own land and resources to enable effective responses to climate change.
Now more than ever, the long-term nature of Fairtrade relationships between producer and buyer is important. When times are tough and harvests poor, fair trade supports producers to continue to earn a sustainable livelihood.