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CANAAN

PALESTINE
 

The Founder

“Olive oil is important for our food security and our cultural representation. It is a symbol of our identity. The trees connect us to our land, to the place, to the history, and to past generations. They also link us with future generations, to our children and grandchildren. They represent the continuity of a nation and our rootedness in the land.”

Nasser Abufarha

A FARMER

Nasser grew up in a farming family in rural Palestine. He was raised in a traditional farming family of 13 members. They mainly lived from the farm generating their own home stock of the main food stables from their farming activities. The wheat and the bread, the grains, the animal feed, their dairy needs of milk cheese, and yogurt, their eggs and chickens, their meats, their oils, honey, and vegetables all were generated from their own farms. 

As a youngster, Nasser was raised working on the farm with his siblings and taking on more of the farm responsibilities at a young age as his siblings left for education or starting their own new families. At age 16, he was the main caretaker of his father’s farms of produce and citrus orchards.

Nasser’s mother comes from the village of Burqin south of Jenin where olive orchards are the main crop in the village. He spent almost every olive harvest there at his grandparents working and taking part in the joy of the olive harvest. Nasser’s early experiences and upbringing have shaped Nasser’s farmer character.   Nasser’s village (Al-Jalama) falls on the northern border of the West Bank. Nasser’s father lost over half of his homestead farmlands to Israel when it was founded in 1948 and was barred from it. Nasser grew up with a farmer/father who was perseverant, innovative, and dreaming to make agriculture bloom in the area, working hard on his land south of the village and always looking north of the village to watch what is happening in his stripped lands. While his father was trying to carry agriculture in Palestine through modernization, introducing tractors to area farming in the early 1940s and modern farming techniques in the sixties and seventies, Nasser now sees the strength in Palestinian traditional regenerative agriculture and its proven success over the long history of the land.  Nasser grew up on the farms in the seventies and eighties and the main limiting factors to his father’s and fellow farmers success then were not their capacity to produce. Rather they produced some of the most delectable produce and fruits. The main challenge was access to markets, land, and resources. His father always spoke of the days when the world was open to him as a farmer selling his produce to the market of his choice in Jaffa, Haifa, Beirut, or Damascus all with a day trip to the market.  After living 20 years in the US, Nasser returned to Palestine with these barriers in farmers lives still the same, except much more intensified. From here, he built on his gained knowledge and experience to establish a route to market and an innovative approach to addressing livelihood sustainability for rural communities in Palestine. 

A VISIONARY

In 2004, Nasser identified olive trees as a way of giving Palestinian farmers a sustainable living and a voice at the same time. To that end, he developed a strong network of producer, commercialization, and research organizations working hand in hand. The project created a route to markets and a tangible medium to international companies and individuals to engage in the sustainability of Palestinian livelihood. Success encouraged Palestinian farmers to invest more in their stewardship of the land, further strengthening their bond with the land and its sustainability. The project is rapidly growing. At present, it empowers more than 2,500 smallholder farmers in the West Bank. Today, Nasser is leading the project towards Regenerative Agriculture, capitalizing on the monumental cultural inheritance that Palestinian farmers possess in their traditional farming practices and food culture. His vision rests on the fact that Palestinian cuisine has developed over millennia of Agri-culture practices, and produced some of the healthiest diets we know, and most sound ecologies on earth.  An ecology that nurtured trees that have produced food for more than 2000 years.  Through Regenerative Agriculture, Nasser envisions preserving the health of the community through food health and security, soil regenerative capacity, original and indigenous landrace seeds, and the Land of Canaan cultural heritage. The flourishing of Palestinian cuisine and agriculture will sustain Palestinian culture in the land that produces it.

A FOUNDER

“Giving a sustained future to people and agriculture in Palestine.” As his motto, Nasser deployed his passion to establish the “Canaan Project” which consists of four different organizations founded to economically and socially empower Palestinian farmers, including women producers, mainly through the promotion of organic farming and fair trade practices for traditional Palestinian crops.

AN AUTHER

Nasser holds a PhD in Cultural Anthropology and International Development from the University of Wisconsin, Madison. He is a published author on issues of landscape, sustainability, and war and violence within political conflict.

Some of his publications:

Article: Land of Symbols: Cactus, poppies, Orange, and Olive Trees in Palestine. Identities Journal. Global Studies of Culture and Power. Vol 15, June (2008)

Book: The Making of a Human Bomb: An Ethnography of Palestinian Resistance. Duke University Press (July 2009)

Article: Alternative Trade Organizations and the Fair Trade Movement. Social Research: For A Better World. Issue 6, Spring (2013) 

PASSION FOR THE LAND

Nasser is driven by his passion for people and the land. To an Anthropologist, the landscape is an ongoing discovery. This is more so, especially in Palestine. The Land of Canaan is where the first human agriculture revolution and hence human settlements began. The landscape has so much to offer us, signs and references, terrains that tell histories and stories of life.

A COOK

Nasser loves to cook, especially Palestinian dishes using fresh farm picked organic ingredients. He finds in cooking a social bond that connect us as humans and s our diversity. His passion for Middle Eastern cuisine is driven by his desire to share the culture experience of producing the food from the land and the social bonds the production and eating creates. Food is a joyful experience that connects people across all lines and opens a window for people to appreciate life, its connection to nature, and to other forms of life.

HIKER

If you visit Canaan and Nasser is around, he will likely take you on a hike in the majestic hills nearby our facility. Nasser says, “The serene rolling hills around us are the most inspiring experience that provides calmness and clarity to the mind.” Through walking and hiking the land, the forces in the natural terrain regenerates energy in the body and mind. The natural terrain is an intense stimulation and opens the horizon to think beyond the here and now. 

CHEERLEADER

Nasser’s leadership rests on promoting a shared vision and goals. Making sure everyone involved buys into the same vision and takes ownership in what they do. Whether it is at the Canaan team level, PFTA staff, farmers and producers, Nasser leads by promoting a philosophy, a system of beliefs and aspired goals, opening spaces for creativity, participation, and initiatives.  

AWARD WINNER

Nasser’s groundbreaking work brought him world-wide recognition displayed in the following awards:

2017 Winner, One World Award. Rapunzel and IFOAM, Germany.

Nov 2015, Green Company Award. José Navarro Foundation, Spain.

Jan 2013, Leadership Award, Citizenship Category. Specialty Foods Association, USA

Dec 2010, Inspiration of Hope Award. Interfaith Peace Builders. Chicago, USA.