While almond trees have always been part of the local Palestinian culture, challenges were also there since the beginning. So when we at Canaan started working in the sector, we faced understandable difficulties. Some were related to the quality of the crops, and on the other side we wanted to see high yields and viability for the farmers to ensure sustainability.
We faced these challenges with the farmers and, logically, we embarked on solving them together. One of the early challenges was the low yield. Farmers were not getting enough produce out of their fields to sustain it, which could have meant the end of the sector in few years. Canaan, in partnership with CORE, analyzed the issue and found some clear problems related to pollination and infestations. Farmers were not planting enough pollinators, and when they do, they use the wrong ones. On infestations, we noticed a high level of 'Almond Wasp’ infections.
We started educating the farmers on the need to use the appropriate pollinators, and the right techniques to ensure highest pollination levels possible. This work led to 30-40% increase in yield in the following season. On the Almond Wasp problem, we faced some sort of a conundrum. We want to fight the pest, yet, we need to follow organic farming practices, thus the use of pesticides was out of question. So we turned to Integrated Pest Management (IPM) to solve this dilemma. Scientific research done by CORE showed that collecting previous season infected almonds and disposing of it should eliminate the conditions needed for the wasp to reproduce. In our first season of IPM implementation, we saw 100% increase in yield.
We also turned back to some of the traditional ways of almond farming, and we saw a great deal of practices that are no more common among the farmers. CORE worked on reintroducing these practices and back it up with science to show farmers the usefulness and applicability of these traditions.
In less than five years, what once was a dying sector has become one of the promising agricultural industries, and for the first time in hundreds of years, almond fields are coming back to Palestine.