Bassema Barahmeh

Farmer, board member of the Palestine Fair Trade Association, village council member and mother of four, Bassema Barahmeh begins her day in Anza village at 4am. Not only is she an expert in hand-rolling maftoul, she also produces organic Fairtrade olive oil, shells almonds, blends za’atar, and bakes pastries with other women to sell at local school canteens.

Anza cooperative

Located 450 metres above sea level, Anza is one of the most scenic villages in Palestine with breathtaking sea views on clear days, and the abundant plains that surround the mountain on which Anza sits are clothed in a semicircle of green and golden colors depending on the season. Like many small villages in Palestine, Anza is proud of its agricultural and culinary heritage.

Bassema taught chef and Fairtrade Ambassador Tom Hunt to cook Palestinian giant couscous maftoul

Bassema has 10 dunums (1 dunum is 1,000m2) of olive trees, producing around 300 litres of oil in a good year, some of which she sells to Canaan, keeping the rest for her family. Like other Anza farmers, she has benefitted from the use of Fairtrade premiums to buy tools and materials for harvesting.

Traditionally, families have been represented in the PFTA by the man of the household, but Bassema considered it important to join and sell olive oil from her family land independently of her husband.

I wanted the independence, and to see the results of my work. I’ve got a good reputation for my produce, and because I am proud of my work I want it to be in my name.

Famous for being a village that values education for girls and young women, Anza’s women co-operative is one of the most active in the area and Bassema is their current co-ordinator. The women produce and sell two to three tonnes of maftoul to Canaan annually. Bassema is proud of their economic and social role:

I’m passing on these traditions to the next generation of women in order to preserve Palestinian culture and connect them with their heritage, and to offer them the chance to be future leaders.

Bassema rolling the iconic Palestinian grain, giant couscous maftoul by hand

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