Palestine Economic Pulse

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GRASS-ROOTS TECHNOLOGY & COMPETITIVE EXPORT:

Human rights defence through economic rights..............

A modest voice in Switzerland, with experience of both sides of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, has been quietly but persistently calling for the grass-roots agrarianization of Palestinian industry as a solution to politically-induced obstacles to Palestinian industrial production and export.

The Palestine-Israeli-Swiss Assoc-iation Palestina-Aufbau Projekte (PAP), established in 1993, builds on members' experience in human rights advocacy to promote Palestinian economic rights within an international framework. The PAP's pragmatic approach, is based on the premise that the agrarianisation of industry, using traditional methods and low levels of technology and capital for carefully chosen produce, can pre-empt heavy public infrastructure investment and generate export revenue. The emphasis on export revenue is an explicit effort to compensate for the loss of external resources such as labour in Israel and remittances from the Gulf. More importantly, the PAP's choice of produce - which is non-perishable - is capable of withstanding the caprices of Israeli policies, thus enabling the creation of a new economic reality.
Production Costs for Pilot Project Phase 2 (ECU)
Product
Quantity

(kg)
Costs

incld. transportation
Recommended

sales value
Stuffed baby egg-plant 3002880 7895
Baby egg plant in vinegar 3001895 3947
Turnip 3002258 1486
Olives in oil 3512376 8082
TOTAL 1251 9409 21410

That the increasingly chronic nature of Israeli closure policies undermines the imple-mentation of donor development strategies and stymies Palestinian economic growth, gives indisputable weight to the PAP's argument. Its founder member Shraga Elam, an Israeli media documentalist who has recently been a peace activist for over twenty years, has stepped up efforts recently to make PAP's argument heard in the light of increasing economic hardship and deterioration of living conditions in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

PAP has carried out extensive and elaborate research to prove that Palestinian agro-food produce can penetrate international markets and contribute to improving Palestinian productivity levels. At the same time, the PAP's labour intensive projects can create gender-friendly employment (most of the project workers are women) that requires neither displacement of labour nor ecological upheaval. PAP has tested the viability of non-perishable agricultural produce in the European market and has come up with very positive results. Experiments began in 1991 in conjunction with a local Palestinian NGO, the Palestinian Union of Agricultural Working Committees (UAWC) with the help of PAP.

The UAWC/PAP project succe-ssfully exported Palestinian Extra Virgin Olive Oil to the European market. This strategically chosen product not only fills the growing demand in the European market but also helps to offset saturation in the local market thereby avoiding surplus production. In addition, olive oil production promotes and strengthens traditional methods of production and contributes an average of 8% to Palestinian GDP. This production has low investment needs and its expansion depends more often than not on simple, environmentally-friendly, improved maint-enance of the olive trees.

PAP's work also involves the promotion of grass-roots level co-ordination focusing on NGO project management rather than a purely profit orientated private enterprise. PAP also insists on providing wages that compare favourably with Israeli wage structures. An additional selling factor of the project is that it targets a growing European market niche for "ethnic" home-made food that is produced in an ideologically and politically sound manner.

PAP's experiments with olive oil were in general highly successful and some oil is still being exported to Europe albeit in limited quantities. However, the development of the project was prevented due to local institutional weakness and limited capacity in the field of export marketing and administrative skills. Despite this, encouraged by the obvious marketability of the final product, and initial responses from European customers, PAP remains undeterred.

PAP has since undertaken a second pilot project that has demonstrated the potential European market for pickled vegetables. A group of single mothers in Kafr Ra'i village, north of Jenin, participated in the project and produced a range of pickled vegetables comprising stuffed baby egg plant preserved in olive oil, baby egg plant with beet-root preserved in vinegar, black olives in olive oil, and turnips with beet-root preserved in vinegar and olive oil.

PAP successfully tested the vegetables for their marketability in the Swiss market. Various technical problems concerning export via Israel were addressed and eventually overcome. However, the test results of the food quality control showed that the vegetables preserved in brine lacked the necessary shelf life. Even some of the produce preserved in oil was found to have preservation problems. Despite these setbacks, PAP has remained convinced of the value of the project and has commissioned laboratory tests to investigate the issue of preservation techniques further and introduce the necessary changes to ensure productivity.

PAP is now ready to launch into larger scale production and to turn the whole project into a fully viable commercial enterprise. Having established a format, PAP aims to export Palestinian pickled vegetables to Switzerland. The development of the project, its intensity and propagation depend on financial support as well as ideological support together with a firm commitment from all parties involved, including the local counterpart organisation. As yet, there is no formal Palestinian body co-ordinating the project but instead a group of volunteers.

The PAP team are keen to ensure that local technical capacity is supported by mobilising Israeli counterpart individuals and organizations who support peace. They believe that the presence of Israeli support is critical in overcoming practical and logistical problems. This has proven to be the case on numerous occasions in the past when PAP's Shraga Elam has managed to intervene to overcome issues such as closure policies and Israeli-imposed export impediments.

The future institutional framework of the project could incorporate one of the following:

Alternatively, financial support could be sought from donor bodies or from different investors and/or also through governmental support. If financial support is not found within a specified time, PAP will endeavour to finance limited production and marketing out of its own resources using retail networks consisting of Swiss shops and restaurants. In different Swiss towns, voluntary representatives agencies have already been contacted to organise central presentation of the products. Distribution would then follow through the regional warehouse of Third World Shops.

The potential success of the work of PAP lies in its resilient promotion of Palestinian economic empowerment that uses indigenous traditional and respected techniques whilst under taking highly scientific and internationally robust market research.

This, combined with the dedication of the PAP members and the professionalism of their work is an extremely valid model for all those interested in Palestinian economic development, and in finding a solution to the deteriorating economic conditions in the West Bank and Gaza.

PALÄSTINA-AUFBAU-PROJEKTE

The associated PAP (Palestine Development Projects) was founded in the spring of 1993 to help launch a fund raising campaign for the olive oil project initiated by founder member Shraga Elam. PAP is a non profit organisation based on Palestinian-Israeli-Swiss co-operation. PAP's members comprise six peace activists who have a long-term commitment to striving for Middle East peace. PAP therefore, can offer experience and technical know how which could, and does, prove most advantageous considering the turbulent political circumstances. For further information on this project please contact:

Shraga Elam, Palästina-Aufbau Projekete, Konradstr. 14, 8005 Zurich, Switzerland.

Tel: ++41 (1) 271 63 94 Fax: ++41 (1) 259 69 08, E-Mail: ela@ringier.ch











AVERAGE MONTHLY CONSUMPTION & EXPENDITURE (IN US$)

FOR HOUSEHOLD OF 7 PERSONS
CATEGORIES
TOTAL EXPENDITURE
TOTAL CONSUMPTION
TOTAL PALESTINE
839
927
West Bank Governates
878
958
West Bank North Governates
784
844
West Bank Middle Governates
1088
1198
West Bank South Governates
795
879
Gaza Governates
757
865
Locality
City
898
1008
Village
823
897
Refugee Camp
739
823
Main Source of Income
Household Business
955
1070
Wages and Salaries
818
893
Remittances in cash/others
770
856
Dependency Rate
2 and more
655
753
1 - less than 2
737
809
Less than 1
962
1056
Household Size
1-3 persons
534
596
4-5 persons
729
795
6-7 persons
823
922
8-9 persons
933
1038
10 or more persons
1150
1257
Percent food consumption
Less than 30%
1201
1327
30-44%
839
927
45-100%
624
693

Source: Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics: Levels of Living in West Bank and Gaza Strip: Selected Statistical Indicators (1996) (Converted from JD at rate 0.716)


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