The Fair Trade Development Centre (FTDC) at the Institute for Community Partnership of Bethlehem University was established in 2006, and is a World Fair Trade Organisation (WFTO) member. It is a support centre that specialises in helping the marginalised producers of Palestine by joining the fair trade movement and benefitting from the same fair trade experience other producers had experienced around the world.
The FTDC’s main goal is to reduce poverty and to enhance economic justice by strengthening farmers and small-scale producers, and through the application of fair trade principles. There are as many as 1,150 cooperatives in Palestine, around 400 of which (representing 300,000 families) are currently active. In addition, almost 99% of Palestinian enterprises are small and medium enterprises (SMEs) employing fewer than ten employees. Small farmers and enterprises are the backbone of the Palestinian economy and the reason Palestinians have survived the continuously challenging situation facing them.
The TDC supported two projects for the Fair Trade Development Centre. The first, which lasted 36 months and was financed to the total amount of €203,162, was called STEPS (Strengthening Palestinian Farmers and Small-Producers) and consisted of providing global support to a group of ten cooperatives and producer groups that represented about 500 workers on the West Bank.
More precisely, this project was dedicated to training agricultural technicians in organic and sustainable agricultural practices, financing new production infrastructure and organising introductory workshops in innovation management. The questions related to certification methods were handled in the second part of the project. These producers also received the support of FTDC experts to implement the necessary procedures within the groups and cooperatives who would benefit from obtaining Fair Trade certification. The last part of the project aimed at increasing the presence of these organisations on international markets.
The results were quite encouraging. About 15 cooperatives and producer groups benefitted from the support offered through the STEPS project, and the five training sessions that were given (of 30 hours each) were extremely well attended. Moreover, five operators from the beneficiary cooperatives were ready to obtain their Cooperative Management Diploma.
The second project supported by the TDC was funded with €63,566 during a one-year period from October 2014 to October 2015. The project aimed to build on the achievements of the previous TDC-funded interventions and the FTDC accomplishments by responding to target group needs that had been identified through participatory consultations with partner cooperatives and retailers. The main objective of this project was to increase economic self-sufficiency for economically disadvantaged producers through increased market access.
- Increased access to markets by adding more distribution channels and increased marketing efforts.
- Certification of products under the Palestinian Standards Institute (PSI) to enhance the product’s image for the consumer.
- Contribute to increasing the participation of women in the labour force which is currently at 20.1%.
- Product development; introduce new products that can be processed from local agricultural products and especially from agricultural products that traditionally have excesses in production or products that suffer from significant price drops at the end of their season, such as grapes, figs, prunes and apricots…etc.