A blossoming Almond tree has always been a sign of hope and promise. A promise that the cold winter is over and the beautiful spring is almost here. In March of every year, the sunlight of the early spring wakes the almond trees from its slumber and decorates it with dazzling white flowers with a few pinkish petals. These flowers are short-lived, and in a week time, they seamlessly become green crunchy almonds. These soft and tasty almonds have the briefest whisper of a season before their shells harden and start looking and tasting more like the almonds we know and love.
Building on the success of the olive oil model, we started looking into the almond sector to basically preserve a tree that is indigenous to the land of Canaan and has been part of the natural ecosystem for thousands of years. Moreover, Canaan philosophy has always been about supporting and sustaining farmers, and those working in almonds were under a huge threat due to economic and political challenges, and most importantly, we wanted to develop a crop that has huge potentials and is known for its amazing taste and health benefits, and introduce it to a market that is looking for pure, natural, and authentic food.
In a short time span, Canaan managed to take the almond sector from the verge of collapse to a booming sector that is sustainable and profitable for our farmers. Our almonds are among the favorites for Canaan customers, and we’re seeing an exponential growth in demand for these tasty fruits.
Canaan is currently working with around 300 farmers managing more than 5,000 dunums (1,250 acres) with excess of 150,000 trees. These family plots are directly owned and operated by small-scale farmers, who rely solely on rain water for irrigation, and use traditional farming in conjunction with new science-backed practices to ensure the quality of their crops. Canaan has been an active supporter for these farmers through providing ongoing, year-round technical support and guidance on best practices. Canaan has also been providing existing and new farmers with free saplings to expand the planted area, leading to a target of adding another 5,000 dunums by year 2020.
As part of Canaan’s commitment to organic farming, we’ve been working with farmers to help them convert to organic. As a result, 31% of the almond farmers have converted, and we expect this ratio to keep rising as we intensify our efforts in the next three years.
Canaan is always striving to sustain the livelihoods of all farmers, and because this push towards almonds is in the heart of our commitment, we have partnered with Palestine Fair Trade Association to provide farmers with the option to become part of a strong organizing body that will help them in the day-to-day operations as well as organize the sector and negotiate collective, profitable business deals for the farmers.
One of PFTA’s first programs in the almond sector was in partnership with CORE, the leading Palestinian research and extension center for organic agriculture. They worked with the farmers to fight the most threatening almond pest; the almonds wasp, where, if infested, almonds tend not only to dry, but also become an incubator for the wasps’ eggs, which would compound the problem in the year after. CORE and PFTA worked on awareness-raising and educational workshops and trainings. They also worked on a program to collect all the dry almonds from the farms and dispose of them to slowly but confidently eliminate this infestation and protect the young but growing almond sector.
Canaan is working hand-in-hand with PFTA, CORE, and the farmers to nurture the almond sector and help it reach its potentials. To that end, we’re patterning with same-minded international partners to market this amazing crop worldwide, and offer it to our customers to enjoy a crop that has been a key source of healthy food for millennia and will continue for generations to come.