In June 2007 representatives from ACDI/VOCA's West Bank Food Security Program met with several Palestinian and Israeli export marketing companies to promote linkages with agricultural cooperatives. After reviewing the profiles of five cooperatives, two of the companies agreed to enter into small pilot projects involving the cultivation and export of new cash crops. Contracts have already been signed between Agro Star and the Thinnaba and Baqa Al-Sharqeyeh Agricultural Cooperatives to cultivate cluster cherry tomatoes for export, and between Agrexco and Qabatya Cooperative to cultivate snow peas for export and the local market.
ACDI/VOCA has also enlisted an Arab Israeli expert to assist farmers with the cultivation of these new crops. The expert is working with local project extension engineers and quality coordinators, as well as the cooperatives’ leaders, to provide participating farmers with the needed know-how.
For Palestinian and Israeli export companies, the cooperatives make useful partners in commercial farming because they provide a link to highly skilled greenhouse farmers. Furthermore, the cooperatives are gaining skills in proper governance through the program: ACDI/VOCA and its subpartners, ANERA and ESDC, have been providing training and technical assistance on good governance and management to the cooperatives since June of 2007 to improve accountability and transparency and to develop internal management and financial systems.
The cooperatives are also receiving help in developing information technology systems to profile their members’ experiences, capabilities and services to interested companies. The IT systems will be linked to management systems and will enable the cooperative to trace the crops to farmers and control chemical use to meet global agricultural standards (e.g., GLOBALG.A.P. ).
Through a parallel initiative, ACDI/VOCA and ANERA are coordinating with the Palestinian Agriculture Relief Committees (PARC) to help farmers get GLOBALG.A.P. certification. All three organizations are helping cooperatives to complete the training and systems development required for GLOBALG.A.P. certification. The certification enables cooperatives to meet market requirements and makes them more attractive to export companies.