Funded by the ILO and organized by the local development committee of the Irbid Governorate and the Irbid Directorate of Agriculture, the 2014 Irbid Olive and Rural Produce Festival highlighted the importance of the olive industry to the local economy in order to encourage Jordanians to increase their consumption of olives and olive-based products.
“The importance of this festival stems from the importance of the (olive) sector,” said Akef Al-Zoubi, Jordan’s Minister of Agriculture at the opening ceremony. “Moreover, the festival is being supported by international bodies, which are offering assistance to Jordan at a time when the country is hosting (Syrian) refugees.”
The olive festival is part of wider efforts by the ILO and its partners in Jordan to support communities most affected by the influx of Syrian refugees into the country. Accordingly, the ILO works closely with the local development committee of Irbid and its Directorate of Agriculture to help local communities boost the quality and production of olives and their derivatives.
“We are supporting the economic resilience of these governorates, so they can better cope with the shock of the (refugee) crisis,” said Jean-Francois Klein, the ILO’s Chief of Regional Programming Services in the Arab States. “The impact of the crisis is basically on jobs (and) on the deterioration of working conditions. The ILO has been working with its stakeholders to support livelihoods initiatives, namely in the sector of agriculture.” The ILO chose to support the olive sector in Irbid based on a participatory value chain assessment conducted alongside the local development committee.
The festival gave local farmers, olive-press owners, agriculture engineers, olive press owners and other institutions a chance to market their products on a commercial scale and served as a platform for stakeholders to explore business opportunities and ways to further develop the sector.
“Through this festival, we aim to raise awareness among farmers on the ways to ensure high quality and production of olive oil,” said Ali Abu Nokta, head of the Directorate of Agriculture’s Irbid office and director of the festival.
“The festival is a great initiative; we can showcase our national products and their quality,” said Zakaria Al Ilwani, one of the farmers participating in the festival. “It also shows the wealth of our country, the products of our land and it encourages us to do better.”
Fatima Obaidat, another participant, said the olive sector offers good employment opportunities for women. “The economic situation is stifling and that is why we need to reach out to the women in our community and teach them how to become better producers not (just) consumers,” she added.
As an adjunct to the festival, a technical workshop took place the second day of the event, which allowed farmers and olive press owners to hold discussions about the challenges and opportunities in Irbid’s olive sector. Discussions focused on best practices and integrated management of olive agriculture. During the workshop the ILO presented findings of its market assessment of Irbid’s olive sector, which examines market demand, marketing challenges and opportunities for various players to capitalize on.
According to Jordan’s National Centre for Agricultural Research and Extension (NCARE), a state agricultural research body, around half of Jordan’s 17 million olive trees are located in the North of the country. In Irbid, olive trees make up 95 per cent of all productive trees. The governorate produces between 60,000 to 80,000 tonnes of olives per year and between 8,000 and 12,000 tonnes of olive oil annually from 50 olive presses.
The ILO is also working with farmers in Jordan’s Mafraq refugee host community to develop the tomato sector, which has been identified as an important source of income for the community, particularly for women.
Nisreen Bathish, ILO Communications Consultant, (e): email@example.com, (t):+9626/565-3991.