When Canaan Fair Trade began, Palestinian farmers faced plummeting olive oil prices locally and no access to outside markets. They were unable to support their families and questioned whether they could stay in farming. Canaan linked struggling farmers with world markets in long-term relationships based on social responsibility and environmental sustainability. The farmers Canaan deals with are able to support their families, stay on their land, and earn their livelihood from the land. Canaan also secured markets for the products of artisan women producers, enabling women cooperatives to earn income off products they traditionally produced for their families.
As a fair trade company, Canaan built a processing plant in Palestine, and Canaan olive oil and foods are processed, packaged and finished in Palestine using their fair trade workers, thus sharing fair trade benefits with more Palestinians. Canaan's fair trade workers are paid well, involved in decision making, and motivated to think of their work as a learning process and be innovative in addressing the needs of their communities.
The Canaan initiative is centered on the land as a regenerative resource in the hands of small-scale farmers. Fair trade and organic farming builds off traditional Palestinian farming methods, and Canaan raises awareness among Palestinian farmers of the benefits of these practices on the environment. Canaan's education and training programs lead to organic and fair trade certification, and allow small farmers and women to receive a premium price for their products in global markets. Canaan reaffirms traditional farming practices that are sustainable, combined with proven techniques that maximize on farm resources, and invests in the future by planting trees and supporting wild cultivation.
By reinvigorating the farming sector in Palestine in a framework of social responsibility and environmental sustainability, Canaan has inspired other institutions and NGO's in Palestine to integrate the principles of fair trade and organic practices into their own initiatives. Recently, the ILO named the Canaan project and its PFTA farmers as a world model for rural transformation, so this initiative could eventually have a global impact.
The Canaan Fair Trade initiative not only secures Palestinian farmers' and women producers' livelihood, but also fosters independence by safeguarding food security for Palestinian communities. Canaan's success has led to shifting perceptions of Palestinians from victim or terrorist to artisan producer and trade partner. This cross cultural exchange has opened the global market to Palestine, empowering Canaan workers and the farmers they deal with, and has cultivated a climate of hope and promise in a marginalized community caught in the midst of conflict.