On UN day: UNDP/PAPP staff join Palestinian farmers in their olive harvest

On UN Day: UNDP/PAPP staff join Palestinian farmers in their olive harvest

By Dania Darwish-Communication Officer UNDP/PAPP

Celebrating the UN Day more than 100 UN staff members from eleven UN sister organizations including the UN Special Envoy Mr. Robert Serry and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad joined the Palestinian farmers harvest their olive trees in Turmusaya village north of Ramallah. The field visit was organized to meet the farmers, hear their stories and accompany them in this annual tradition.

Turmusaya village is one of the affected areas by the Israeli occupation. According to OCHA, Israeli settlers allegedly sprayed olive trees in the village with chemicals damaging dozens of trees and uprooted some dozens as well. These attacks on Palestinian farmers are contributing to the erosion of a source of livelihood for many Palestinian families.

Every other year, Palestinian farmers harvest their olive trees during the early days of the fall season. The olive harvest assumes a central role in Palestinian culture and economy. Traditionally, entire families gather around the harvest season to pick the olives which are either pressed for olive oil or picked. The picking is a labor intensive process requiring thousands of workers and two months of daily work. Consequently, more than half of the Palestinian population participates in the olive harvest with extended families spending weeks in the fields in a festive manner assisting with the harvest. 

During the past years, many Palestinian farmers have experienced hardships during this season, as a result of a lack of access to their lands, closures, the Wall, harassment by settlers, and in some cases confiscation of their land and uprooting of their trees. Since the start of the current season (15 September 2010), 17 Palestinian farmers were injured by Israeli settlers in 9 incidents, compared with 7 and 13 injuries during the entire 2009 and 2008 seasons respectively and approximately 3,700 olive trees were burned, uprooted, dried with chemicals or otherwise vandalized allegedly by Israeli settlers, compared with a few hundreds over the course of each of the previous two seasons.

During the event, The Special Coordinator Serry, emphasized the UN’s support for Dr Fayyad’s state-building agenda. The Prime Minister expressed his thanks to the UN family for their participation in the olive harvest and for their continuous support and services to the Palestinians and he spoke of his determination to see Palestinian statehood realized.

The day ended with a Palestinian meal prepared by a local women organization under the branches of the olive trees.

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