Each year a group of women in a village near Ramallah produce 600 kilos (1,320 pounds) of honey, which sells for about 100 shekels ($26, 23 euros) per kilo
Each year a group of women in a village near Ramallah produce 600 kilos (1,320 pounds) of honey, which sells for about 100 shekels ($26, 23 euros) per kilo © Andrea Bernardi - AFPTV
Each year a group of women in a village near Ramallah produce 600 kilos (1,320 pounds) of honey, which sells for about 100 shekels ($26, 23 euros) per kilo
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Shatha Yaish, AFP
Last updated: January 1, 1970

Honey provides sweet relief for Palestinian women

Their faces covered in mesh and bodies protected by white suits, three Palestinian women carefully inspect beehives which they say have helped to transform their lives.

In the hills of the West Bank, occupied for nearly half a century by Israel, producing honey has become an economic lifeline for a growing number of women.

The income it brings is a major boost in the Palestinian territories, where one in four people -- and 40 percent of women -- are unemployed.

Muntaha Bairat, 37, started beekeeping four years ago in an olive grove near the village of Kafr Malik, near Ramallah, the seat of the Palestinian Authority.

She was not expecting big results, she told AFP as she examined the beehives, which she runs with five women from the village.

"But after we worked we discovered it was a great project for us," she said. "It has totally changed our lives."

Each year they produce 600 kilos (1,320 pounds) of honey, which sells for about 100 shekels ($26, 23 euros) per kilo.

Once maintenance costs are deducted, each woman takes home around 6,000 shekels a year -- more than $1,500.

From the profits, one woman was able to send her son to college, while another bought a television she had long dreamed of, Bairat said.

"Before this project, some of the women never left Palestine," Bairat said.

"Today they travel to Jordan or Spain" to display their goods in agricultural and trade forums.

As well as honey, they now aspire to make products with jelly and beeswax.

- Strong roots -

The project was supported by the Palestinian Agricultural Relief Committees (PARC), an organisation that helps 103 women run 64 small agricultural projects across the West Bank and Gaza.

Most of the projects in the West Bank are in the region known as Area C, the roughly 60 percent of the West Bank under full Israeli control since the Oslo Accords of the 1990s.

Since then, Israel has tightly restricted any Palestinian development of the area.

The decision to focus on Area C was deliberate, says PARC's Nasseh Shaheen, who oversees the projects.

He said the goal is to "support people to stay on their land, especially women living in agricultural areas."

The share of agriculture in the Palestinian economy has fallen by 72 percent since the Oslo agreement.

It now represents just four to five percent of the economy, according to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development.

In the West Bank, more than one in 10 families rely on the mother as the major breadwinner.

This is true among the beekeepers, with some feeding families of seven or nine members, Bairat said.

No'ama Hamayel expects the annual harvest in August. The 52-year-old mother of six has school bills to pay and "by selling a kilo of honey every week, my finances improve substantially."

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