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Sheet 15
April 2014
Background Olives and olive oil production play an important role in Palestinian social, cultural and economic
life. The olive tree is a familiar feature of the Palestinian landscape, with around half of all cultivated land available to
Palestinians in the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt) devoted to olive production. Olive trees are resilient to drought, and
can produce fruit under poor soil and climatic conditions. Virtually all Palestinian olive trees are rain-fed, meaning that
they rely on annual rainfall as their only source of water. However, irrigation is a proven way to achieve greater consis-
tency in yield from one year to the next. The use of irrigation not only reduces the number and severity of bad years in
the olive production cycle, but also increases the number and size of olives produced per tree, as well as the number
of trees that can be planted per dunum. For this reason, year round irrigation is commonly used by olive producers in
Israel. However, unlike Israeli farmers who have access to adequate amounts of both freshwater and treated waste-
water supplies, Palestinian farmers continue to face severe restrictions on water use that prevent them from irrigating
their land and olive orchards.
Olive producton and supplementary irrigaton
1. Olive oil producton in the occupied Palestnian
territory has enormous economic potental, both
in terms of increased economic revenue and job
Around half of all cultivated land in the oPt is devoted to olive
, with 96,6% of all Palestinian olive trees located in
the West Bank
In 2012, the value added of the oPt olive oil industry was USD
6.49 million
, with olive production responsible for contributing
as much as 25 percent of the oPts total agricultural income
Olive production in the oPt provides job opportunities for over
150,000 Palestinians
, and creates an average of 3 million days
of seasonal work annually
. It is estimated that approximately
100,000 Palestinian families depend to some extent upon the
olive harvest for their livelihoods
, while over half of all families
living in rural areas of the oPt list agriculture as their main source
of income.
2. Supplementary irrigaton holds the key to unlocking the economic potental of olive producton in the oPt.
Under rain-fed conditions, olive production in the oPt is cyclical and fruit yield ranges from 27,000 tonnes in a bad year to 170,000
tonnes in a good year, and olive oil production from 6,000 to 34,000 tonnes
. A number of pilot programs in the West Bank,
designed to test the benets of supplementary irrigation for olive production, demonstrate that supplementary irrigation would
close the gap between good and bad years, providing steady incomes to families. The results of the pilot projects suggest that
supplementary irrigation can double fruit yield and triple oil production per tree
1. UN, The Food Security Sector, The Olive Industry in the OPT, p. 2, October 2013.
2. Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS), Number, Area and Production of Bearing Horticulture Trees in Palestine by Type of Crop and Region, 2010 / 2011,
available at: -2011,14E.htm
3. Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS), Main Economic Indicators for Olive Presses Activity in the Palestinian Territory by Governorate 2012, available at:
4. UN, The Food Security Sector, The Olive Industry in the OPT, p.2, October 2013.
5. David-Alexandre Brassard, Olive Oil Feasibility Study, Draft Version, September 2013.
6. FAO, Overview of the Olive Sector in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, October 2013.
7. World Bank, Brief Overview of the Olive and the Olive Oil Sector in the Palestinian Territories, available at:
8. FAO, Overview of the Olive Sector in the West Bank and Gaza Strip,13 October 2013.
9. Pilot project carried out by Near East Foundation in the village of Asera Al -Shamaliya near Nablus, 2011- 2013.
Olive production
and irrigation
emergency water and sanitation / hygiene
3. The main obstacle to unlocking this potental is lack
of access to water.
The West Bank naturally is home to plentiful supplies of
underground fresh water in the form of the West Bank mountain
aquifer and Jordan River.
Since 1967, however, Israel has unilaterally controlled these
resources and exploited them for near exclusive Israeli use in
violation of customary international water law, which calls for
these resources to be shared equitably and reasonably.
In total, Israel exploits nearly 90 percent of all the shared or trans-
boundary water resources (Jordan River, West Bank aquifers,
Coastal aquifer), and allocates less than 10 percent for Palestinian
The Israeli occupation has undermined irrigation possibilities for
Palestinians since 1967. Palestinians have rarely been permitted
to drill new agricultural wells and existing wells often lack Israeli
permits for repair and basic maintenance. Palestinians in Area C are
also required to apply for permits for the construction of rainwater
harvesting cisterns, which collect run-off rather than extracting
water from underground aquifers. WASH structures, especially
cisterns, are often subject to destruction by the Israeli army
4. Case study of Asira Ash Shamaliya
A number of pilot programs exist in the West Bank designed to test the benets of supplementary irrigation for olive production.
Supplementary irrigation involves irrigation over a three month period, between the months of July and September. The results
of these pilot programs have been extremely positive. Once such program is carried out by the Near East Foundation in the
village of Asira Ash Shamaliya near Nablus. Since 2011, the program has been measuring the benets of supplementary
irrigation in terms of both crop yield as well as oil production. The rst sample of 100 trees (sample 1) received 3 cubic meters
) of water between July and September, as well as 250 cubic centimetres (cc) of liquid organic fertilizer applied during the
rst irrigation. The second sample of 100 trees (sample 2) received 3m
of water between July and September, but no liquid
fertilizer. The third sample of 100 trees (sample 3) received no supplementary irrigation or liquid fertilizer. The results from 2011
(also replicated in 2012) are listed below:
This project is funded by the European Commission
Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection department
(ECHO). The views expressed in this document do
not reect in any way the ofcial opinion of the
European Commission and of the European Union.
Average weight
of single olive
Average weight
of esh per olive
Quantity of olives
per tree
Oil produced per
1 (SI + Fertilizer) 2.1 grams 1.56 grams 78kg 16 kilo
2 (SI only) 1.6 grams 1.13 grams 56kg 12 kilo
3 (Rain-fed) 1.1 grams 0.67 grams 34kg 6 kilo
10. Palestinian Water Authority, Palestine: The Right to Water, 2012.
11. Information on WASH demolitions provided by UN OCHA, 2013.
12. World Bank, Area C and the Future of Palestinian Economy, 2013.
Founded in 2002, the Emergency Water Sanitation and
Hygiene (EWASH) is a group of humanitarian agencies
working together to coordinate interventions, respond
to needs, share information and do advocacy on the
water and sanitation sector in the OPT. Members
include local and international NGOs and UN agencies.
Visit for more information.
This fact sheet was produced by EWASH
Advocacy Task Force: a sub-committee of EWASH
in collaboration with The Applied Research
Institute Jerusalem (ARIJ) as part of the From
Grove to Market olive oil programme.
Olive oil production has an important economic potential in the oPt and supplementary irrigation could contribute to stronger
growth of the industry. Access to reliable, affordable and safe water supplies for agricultural and industrial use in the oPt is
crucial to the viability of a future Palestinian state