By: Firas Taweel
Young women and men in a Palestinian agricultural cooperative cultivate the land
Exclusive to Environment and Development Horizons (Afaq magazine):
In a country where the occupation controls all its capabilities, we have recently witnessed a blessed return of the youth to the land; an indication of a growing state of consciousness.
The harsh reality has pushed the youth working with the cooperatives to take up the challenge and protect what is left of the land from the Israeli confiscation and to move forward on the path of building a resilient economy. This requires a lot of work and the path seems long, but it is certainly not impossible.
In Al-Bireh City, on the side of the road in front of the Popular Art Center, specifically opposite to Al-Ain Mosque. There, in the midst of the traffic, the bright colors of vegetables attract your attention.
A group of farmers collaborated into what is called “Cooperatives’ market”. They bring organic products of their land to display them in this place where they meet consumers without the need of middle men to market their products or sell them.
The idea was launched at the beginning of this year; Sharaka “a Palestinian volunteer-run initiative that aims to support Palestinian farmers by promoting local seasonal and Palestinian produce and goods by linking farmers and consumers directly. Sharaka helps farmers market their products which is one of the most prominent challenges that the Palestinian farmers face.
It is worth mentioning that Sharaka is led by a group of youth centers and movements in the West bank and Gaza Strip, it works under the umbrella of both the Popular Art Center and MAAN Development Center.
The farmers market has become a popular local market with the aim of supporting agricultural youth cooperatives to market their products at a fair price, and contribute to solving the marketing dilemma, overcoming monopoly and low prices, and encouraging young people to return to the land, says Forum coordinator Rami Massad.
The farmers market is supported by seven agricultural cooperatives from different governorates. A group of young people decided to take the initiative to create job opportunities for them in times where there are limited job opportunities in the Palestinian market.
The land of despair will grow hope
One of the cooperatives participating in the Farmer’s market initiative, the "Ard al Yaa’s” meaning “Land of Despair" cooperative in the village of Safa, a village to the west of Ramallah.
It is a youth cooperative that was established in 2017 and consists of nine members, seven of them are university students, and their mission is to convert all abandoned and neglected lands to green cultivated lands.
They began the project by collecting 200 shekels per month from each member, and they planted one and a half dunums. Currently they cultivate 35 dunums inside the village.
The cooperative aims to return to the land through agriculture, to promote the idea and help it become a productive economic pattern and to raise the level of food security within the village.
The members of the cooperative believe the only way to independence and food sovereignty is being productive.
Choosing the name of the cooperative “The land of despair will grow with hope” was for a reason. The members of the cooperative explain to the reporter of “Afaaq Environmental Magazine” the reason behind the name is that consciousness comes as a result of despair and misery. It is not a source of pessimism.
This cooperative seeks to recover from all the despair that surrounds us and turn it into consciousness through a practical model that resists and rejects all illusions surrounding us.
The above-mentioned cooperative, according to its owners, is looking to reach a state of financial independence by using their specialties and skills in the development of the cooperative.
Instead of going after the job or the service sector, they devote their lives to the land through a pattern of cooperation that develops the economy and eventually benefits the society, reduces monopoly and increases participation of all society members.
Translated by: Rasha Abu Dayyeh