For generations, families from Marda, situated in the Salfit region of the West Bank, have tended to their olive groves and harvested exquisite olive oil, but when the West Bank fell to Israel many farms were dispossessed. Under Israeli military occupation, life for the olive farmers of Marda has been especially challenging.
In 2005, the Israeli government built the so-called Separation Wall - a physical barrier that separates many Palestinian people from their olive trees. In order to regain access and tend to their groves, these farmers must apply for a permit from the government. Even those with a permit, however, are often denied entry to the trees at certain times of the year without facing harassment from soldiers and confiscation of olives harvested. Farmers are often arrested simply for picking olives from their own land and, since the construction of the Separation Wall, water and land resources previously owned by Palestinians are often seized, making it even more difficult to look after their olive trees.
Despite the turbulent political climate, Murad has worked vigilantly to create a permaculture project which promotes cultural, ecological and economic vigilance within occupied territories, hosting courses on permaculture design, home-scale permaculture gardens and beekeeping for the benefit of the community. At a hostile time when segregation by the Israeli government prevails, Marda Permaculture Farm helps to connect Palestinians to each other and their environment.
Working on the three principles of permaculture; care of the earth, care of people and fair share, the project acts as a training model for local farmers and international permaculture students, teaching them how to maximise local resources and move towards sustainable production. As a prolific example of food security and self-sustainability, Marda Permaculture Farm helps to educate other local olive farmers on how to grow food and cash crops organically and also supplies local families with beehives so that they can produce their own honey, and greywater systems to irrigate crops more efficiently.
The development of the Marda Permaculture Farm gives hope that, despite the difficulties faced by growers here, farmers can make a living from the olive oil they have expertly produced for so many years. Since 2013, buyers from The Sustainable Lush Fund have worked alongside the farm, ensuring that the growers receive a fair price for their wonderful olive oil which can go back into developing this strikingly smart regenerative farm. Recently, funds from SLush went towards an underground cistern which provides water to the olive growers of Marda. The cistern ensures that farmers have access to a reliable source of water which cannot be shut off by the Israeli government.
The Marda Permaculture Farm is a heartwarming example of a community that is helping to create and maintain a sustainable and fruitful farming future for generations to come, whilst continuing to create their high quality oil as a form of non-violent resistance to the occupation. You can find their artisan olive oil in Olive Tree gourmet soap - one in a range of soaps made particularly special by a luxurious, in-house soap base and beautiful ingredients sourced from uniquely regenerative communities like Marda.