Haj Rafeeq Hussein

Haj Rafeeq Hussein is a farmer from the ancient village of Ti’innik, perched high on a terraced hill in Palestine’s West Bank. At 77 years old he carries a wealth of farming experience and still loves tending his olive and almond trees, along with annual wheat and sesame crops.

It’s a full-time job, for which he draws on the inherited wisdom of his ancestors who have farmed the same land for over 200 years. This treasure trove of traditional knowledge is proving invaluable as he and fellow farmers face the challenges of adapting to climate change under an occupation that restricts access to land and water resources.

Haj Rafeeq uses regenerative farming practices that increase yields of his organic crops through building soil health and conserving water. He’s seen the productivity of his olive trees suffer as a result of shifts in the seasonal rain patterns and unusually high temperatures in the summer months. Although the olive trees he tends are traditional rainfed varieties he has found that, in times of
drought, additional watering is now needed to support their yields. Water access is an issue for many farmers like Haj Rafeeq, living in an area of Palestine where the Israeli occupation forbids the drilling of new wells and even the construction of cisterns to collect rainwater. Luckily Haj Rafeeq can buy water from Ti’innik council, but not all farmers can manage this additional cost.

As climate change brings uncertainty to the seasonal rainfall patterns which are crucial to a good crop, the relationship he has with Fairtrade customers offers a safety net through connections that go beyond the commercial and the short-term.

Haj Rafeeq grew up with farming, but in 1979 he started work as a truck driver, to bring in extra income for his family. He returned to farming in 2003 and, with Ti’innik coop joining the Palestine Fair Trade Association in 2008, he and other farmers found the Fairtrade market could support the expansion of their farming livelihoods. He describes farming as ‘joyful, and hard work!’

  • Village co-operative: Ti’innik
  • Location: Jenin Governorate, North-eastern West Bank, Palestine
  • Members: 20
  • Co-operative annual yield: 34 metric tons

The nearby illegal Israeli settlements took some of Haj Rafeeq’s family land. He now has around 900 trees, growing on 75 dunums (0.075 km2). He tells us that the main challenge for him as a farmer, is that the price of farming inputs is high compared to the income he receives. However, Fairtrade farming is making his livelihood more viable, with the price he gets for his olive oil allowing for some
investment in planting new trees and crops.

The Fairtrade premiums also support the community – so far they have been used to build a health clinic and provide school facilities. Still, the threat remains of the growing settlements and the land they take. For Haj Rafeeq and other growers, tending to their lands and crops is not just a job, it’s a way to continue in the proud farming tradition of their ancestors.

“To the people in Britain, we trust you to distinguish between Palestinian products and those of the Israeli settlements. The settlers challenge our livelihood – they want to take our land. We cultivate our crops in hard conditions, and we insist on producing high-quality products. Your support is welcomed, so that we can continue farming.”

Haj Rafeeq

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