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The first in al-Bab: olive festival and harvest celebration

Olives’ festival in al-Bab city in Aleppo countryside - November 2019 (Enab Baladi)

Olives’ festival in al-Bab city in Aleppo countryside - November 2019 (Enab Baladi)

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Enab Baladi – Aleppo countryside | A “modern yet old” idea, which originated from the peasants’ gathering after the harvest to celebrate the crop and display products and stages of production from planting to harvesting, turned into a festival of olive trees and oil, with folk food associated with the harvest season, tools and traditional crafts.

The first Olive Trees’ Festival was held in al-Bab city in eastern Aleppo countryside in cooperation with Violet Organization and the Directorate of Agriculture of the city’s local council.

Cultural heritage of the North

The Violet Organization’s program coordinator, Ibrahim Sirmini, stated that the festival celebrates the olive tree as a part of the cultural heritage of the north, while referring to the importance of preserving and celebrating the occasion.

Sirmini explained to Enab Baladi the activities of the festival, which included activities related to the history of the trees’ harvest and other techniques to maintain the trees well being. He stated stated:  “The olive tree is extremely valuable for the residents of northern Syria because it is considered as part of a heritage passed from generation to generation. It is rare to find anyone in the north who does not have one olive tree at least, from which he extracts his annual supplies.”

The festival was initiated with an agricultural lecture explaining the importance of olive trees and the benefits of olive oil, as well as the diseases, which can affect the olive trees and way to fight them, in addition to a history lecture about the importance of olive trees in maintaining the economy of the kingdoms, which ruled the region in the past.

The festival included a market in which many olive oil producers participated, presenting their products and displaying heritage tools, which were used to collect the olives.

The festival also included popular olive-season dishes such as “al-Kassib and al-Halawa,” which merchants used to sell to the field workers. Thus, the meal “provides the harvesters with energy to accomplish the work,” Sirmini said.

Farmers and participators displayed crafts and artistic works, such as baskets made from olive tree branches and decorated clay jars.

Violet Organization has worked on implementing previous olive trees preservation projects, such as the harvesting and pesticide scrapping project in cooperation with the Agriculture Directorate of Al-Bab’s local council.

Farmer Sattouf Abdullah stated that he was a beneficiary of projects implemented by Violet Organization in al-Bab, which eased the financial burdens he had faced while maintaining his olive trees this year.

Difficulties and fears of loss

Abdullah told Enab Baladi that farmers in the region have faced this year many difficulties such as rising fuel prices and high labour force costs. He noted that he participated in the festival hoping to find businessmen willing to export his products so that he can compensate for the crop expenses.

Anas Shahoud, a tradesman, said that the farmers were the most affected category this year due to the closure of roads, following the launch of the Turkish military operation on the Syrian border, on 9 October last year. He added that the price of the olive oil tanker dropped from $ 38, last year, to $ 27 this year. He added that the festival helps farmers promote and sell their products in foreign market.

The director of agriculture directorate in al-Bab city, Dr. Mustafa Akoum, told Enab Baladi that this kind of festivals presents an opportunity to the producer, trader, marketer and consumer to interact directly, which enables farmers to display and classify their products.

The Olive Trees’ Festival was held for the first time in al-Bab, as the city’s local council used to rely on supporting farmers by advertising the harvesting season via social media and famous TV channels. Akoum indicated that this festival session will not be the last, as the local council intends to hold similar events in the future in order to promote each season’s products.

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