MedSNAIL in Palestine protects the biodiversity of some food products through the Slow Food’s Ark of Taste program
Palestine's geopolitical situation makes it increasingly difficult to develop agricultural activities that can provide Palestinian families with food security.
Despite this, the agricultural sector continues to be important and accounts for 30% of GDP and is the first sector in which those in need of a minimum income take refuge.
Palestine does not have a particularly large land area, but it is rich in seed varieties - and therefore valuable for cultivating biodiversity - and thus has multiple and diverse types of crops. The fertile lands of Jenin Giovernorate region, especially in the plains of Marj Ibn Amer(مرج ابن عامر) as it was named by locals and historians as “Palestine’s Bread Basket”, Sahl Arraba (سهل عرّابة) or known as Dothan Valley, and Marj Sanour(مرج صانور), are dotted with the remains of ancient irrigation aqueducts, however; the land has a high salinity rate that is increasing in some areas, and due to the widespread use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides; there is little rain so the soil is not drained easily, and the little water available is often used for monocultural systems that require large amounts of water, where most farmers have been resorting to rain-fed agriculture.
In such a context, the work of the partners of the MedSNAIL project has been placed, fostering the valorization and development of small-scale traditional agro-food value chains, combining enhancement of market potentialities and socio-environmental sustainability. Project activities were built on the well-established experience, principles and methods of Slow Food, an international grassroots organization promoting traditional food with a strong focus on biodiversity preservation.
And in particular, Slow Food's Ark of Taste project https://www.fondazioneslowfood.com/en/what-we-do/the-ark-of-taste/about-the-project/ fits in well to safeguard food biodiversity put at risk by such a complicated context.
The online catalog was already started in the country, and Slow Food was working on mapping new products. Thanks to the project, 6 new products came on board, a picture of a rich, interesting and still living gastronomic tradition. Indeed, behind each of these products are interesting stories and traditions.
As ancient Baladi varieties of Wheat, Baladi lentils and Hordeum. Or the Baladi sesame: the area grown to sesame is decreasing year after year due to the lower prices of imported sesame. Subsistence farmers grow sesame in different places but at very small scale.
Another selected product is a local variety of dry bean, grown in Arrabeh, southwest of Jenin. It is characterized by small seeds, it has special taste. Local people indicated that they inherited this variety and keeps growing it even on limited level. Only people who tried the taste or cooked it give the fair value of such variety.
Or, finally, Blume schott “Ja’adeh”, a plant that grows wild, without cultivation for economic purposes. The density of the plant is not high. People who collect this plant take a long time to find it, unless they know where it grows. It is only common in the Jenin and Tulkarm areas. It reproduces by means of corms deep in the soil, so it is neither endangered nor a widespread variety. This plant is deeply rooted in the history of the northern areas of Palestine and Jordan. According to tradition, when a mother gives birth, food and drink are offered to the mother in congratulations. In many villages in Jenin and in a few other villages in Tulkarm, in the vicinity of Jenin, a special soup made from Jea’deh Eminium spiculatum and eggs ‘Ja’ajeel Ja’deh’ is usually offered to the mother in childbirth. It has an anticoagulant effect, which means that it helps the mother recover from childbirth; however, some people eat it, particularly the elderly who are still attached to their culinary heritage. Many plants in this family are poisonous when eaten raw, due to the presence of calcium oxylate crystals. When eaten raw, this toxin causes hundreds of tiny needles to stick in the mouth. However, it is easily destroyed by thoroughly cooking or drying the plant.
Traditional biodiversity hides so many stories as well as profound richness. It is crucial to save it, but there is still a long way to go. So, we have set ourselves an ambitious goal: to board thousands of products on the Ark, tracking them down in every corner of the planet.
The Slow Food’s Ark of Taste travels the world collecting small-scale quality productions that belong to the cultures, history and traditions of the entire planet, pointing out their existence, drawing attention to the risk of their extinction within a few generations and inviting everyone to take action to help protect them. Take action and discover and nominate the next Ark of Taste product!
Find more about the Slow Food Ark of Taste in Palestine
To nominate a product here
MedSNAIL, Sustainable Networks for Agro-food Innovation Leading in the Mediterranean, is a EU funded project under the ENI CBC Med Programme and in partnership with Andalusian Federation of Municipalities and Provinces (Spain), Slow Food Foundation for Biodiversity (Italy), American University of Beirut (Lebanon), The Rural Women’s Development Society (RWDS) (Palestine), University of Sfax (Tunisia), Gozo Regional Development Foundation (Malta), and Women for Cultural Development (Namaa) (Jordan).