Crystal Clear Olive Oil at a Lower Cost
USAID Supports an Olive Farmers’ Cooperative Amid Lebanon’s Economic Crisis
“We are making more of a profit as a COOP and as individual farmers. Now we can come on a daily basis to press our olives and get the best-quality oil.” — Khaled Abdallah, a member of the Akroum olive farmers’ cooperative
Olive oil production is a backbone of Lebanon’s agribusiness sector. Approximately 170,000 Lebanese earn their living farming or growing olives. Almost 20 percent of the national production takes place in the northern region of Akkar and is an important source of income for the area, where two-thirds of residents live below the poverty line.
A farmers’ cooperative (Co-Op) that serves the northern town of Akroum and other surrounding towns owns an olive press that can be used by more than 400 local farmers; however, the CoOp could not afford to purchase an upgraded generator in order to power the olive press. USAID’s Community Support Program (CSP) not only provided the Co-Op with a more powerful generator and a centrifuge machine to improve the yield of oil, but also offered training workshops to help the CoOp improve its business practices and better ensure the safety of its members while operating the press.
Khaled Abdallah, a father of six and member of Co-Op, noted that he and his colleagues “learned to operate and maintain the generator ourselves instead of having to call an engineer or technician,” Abdallah says. Since CSP’s intervention, the CoOp managed to decrease its costs from 70 to 30 percent and to press olives on a daily basis, resulting in the production of some 7,500 tanks of oil last season, the highest output in 15 years.
“The augmented production capacity also helps us to optimize the quality of our oil by enabling us to press our olives within a two-day window,” Abdallah says. The improvement in quality began paying off almost immediately. “One day, I was pressing my own olives, when one of my customers saw the crystal-clear results of the oil production while waiting to press his olives. He insisted on buying my oil, and I sold some to him on the spot.”
Looking forward, the farmers plan to pool their profits to purchase equipment that will help them boost their income even more — all while producing some of Lebanon’s finest olive oil. This intervention is one of many implemented by USAID’s $80 million CSP (2018 – 2025) activity, which is designed to provide a broad range of support to underserved and vulnerable communities to improve the delivery of essential services and enhance economic opportunities, primarily in Lebanon’s North,South, and Beqaa regions.