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Seedless grapes in May: A Palestinian agricultural success story

Jerusalem24– On Sunday 29 May the Jerusalem24 team visited the Dalyeh Seedless Grape Farm, a project funded by the Palestine Investment Fund (PIF) in partnership with the Sawafta Brothers Corporation.

The trip started from Ramallah, all the way up Route 90 in the Jordan Valley, reaching the small village of Ein Al-Beida, Tubas, near the Palestinian-Jordanian border.

After two-hour long ride on a hot day in the valley, we met with Engineer Mohannad Sawafta, one of the brothers co-founding the project. We toured the lands along with the PIF team, learning the process of cultivating and curating the seedless grapes, and watched as the 70 workers harvested and prepared the produce for its departure to the market.

Greenhouses and other agricultural infrastructure spread across the land, catering to all logistical needs for the cultivation and production of grapes and citrus.

Sawafta described the process of planting and curating the grapes, the amount of work needed for producing high-value grapes, and how to make sure that only a set number of grape clusters – 36 – grow on each vine, ensuring only the highest quality product is delivered. The greenhouses follow a system and layout that allows the workers to work comfortably, with the grape clusters only hanging to the sides.

The Sawafta Brothers brought to the project their long agricultural experience in addition to modern agricultural methods.

This allowed them to create a high-value product that matches Israeli market standards which can compete with Israeli produce. This allows them to support the agricultural economy of Palestinian farmers, and also stands as an example of Palestinians’ ability, with the right funding and support, to compete to the highest standards and on par with Israeli government-funded agricultural efforts.

 “The grapes planted here use advanced technologies, advanced strains, and advanced tools and traits, this is but one of the many examples in the agricultural revolution.” – Mohannad Sawafta

The village of Ein Al-Beida falls in Area C, like 94% of the Jordan Valley, where it is always under danger of Israeli-imposed restrictions and confiscations, as well as attacks by settlers. The Dalyeh project helps in supporting residents of the area and decreasing such risks.

The farm covers an area of 465 dunums. The first phase of the project, started in 2018-2019, was dedicated to developing and cultivating 105 dunums, 85 of which were planted with seedless grapes and 20 with citrus.

The second phase includes expanding the areas for cultivation through renting 360 dunums of adjacent land. As of this moment, the rehabilitation of 265 dunums of land has resulted in the cultivation of 200 dunums planted with seedless grapes and 65 dunums with citrus.

Dalyeh farm distinguishes itself in the application of agricultural technologies, using advanced and computerized irrigation systems, as well as solar cells to generate electricity and greenhouses equipped with the latest technologies and the highest agricultural regulations and standards.

The project’s economic benefits translate into job opportunities for Palestinian farmers; increasing the volume of national agricultural produce and in turn contributing to reducing the volume of imported produce; and strengthening the resilience of Palestinian farmers in Area C.

“Challenges are always there, it’s different from field to field, when it comes to the agricultural field, the challenges come in the restrictions imposed by the Israeli government on the Palestinian investing side, the harassment of the Palestinian farmers, in the Ein Al Beida area, the PIF was able to reach with the help of the Sawafta brothers, to reach an agreement to rent out those lands and invest in it in collaboration with each other, the PIF’s role  came in providing the needed capital and infrastructure, and the lands were provided by the Sawafta brothers.” – Dr. Atef Alawneh, PIF

The partnership comes as a part of a list of investments by the PIF to support the agricultural scene in Palestine, a strategy which aims to concentrate investments in the productive sectors that have high added value.  PIF is managing and implementing an investment portfolio in agriculture in different areas of Palestine, particularly in Area C, a diversified portfolio that targets agricultural and livestock projects as well as food industries and others.

Dalyeh Seedles Grape farm Ein Al Beida, Tubas. 29 May 2022 [photo credit: Ehab Tahboub, Jerusalem24]
Dalyeh Seedles Grape farm Ein Al Beida, Tubas. 29 May 2022 [photo credit: Ehab Tahboub, Jerusalem24]

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