Treatment of Olive Mill Waste (OMW) is a major challenge for the Mediterranean region. It has been largely demonstrated that incorrect OMW management leads to soil, surface and groundwater pollution and deterioration of the landscape. In Palestine, where water is considered being a highly important resource that actually has to face an increasing demand for almost all sectors, OMW treatment and valorization is gaining increasingly attention from many researchers in the world.
Olives and their oil have major contributions in the Palestinian economy. Olive farms cover almost half of the cultivated area in the West Bank, and olive sub-sector contributes by around 15% to the agricultural income and at about 5% of the GDP. At the same time olive mills generate large amounts of wastewater (from 1.2 to 1.8 m3/ton of processed olives) that at the moment is not treated, exacerbating water availability and problems. Finding effective treatment methods for the effluents of the olive industry should be a high-priority research topic for universities and scientific institutes in Palestine.
Indeed, some small-scale projects have been carried out, mainly by Palestinian research organizations. However, they have not sufficiently contributed to substantial improvement of environmental conditions. The random dumping of untreated wastewater into wadies and watercourses is still the most common practice across the West Bank territories. Similarly, large amounts of Olive Mill Solid Waste are accumulated during harvest season. Such environmental degradation do not respect national borders and must therefore be addressed in a multilateral context through join initiatives at international, regional and national level.
Tackling environmental degradation by strengthening EU-Palestinian partnership
Against this situation, OLITREVA is conceived through the European Seventh Framework Programme to reinforce scientific and technological (S&T) capacities of Palestinian research institutions by increasing networking and cooperation with European centres of top-level research and scientific excellence working in the same field. Through this path, they will develop the necessary capacities to respond to the environmental challenges caused by the improper disposal of the Olive Mill Waste.
Engaging one of the country’s leading institutions in this field, The Applied Research Institute-Jerusalem, will be the first step toward the achievement of this goal, while widening the path for future collaborations between European and Palestinian researchers and bringing current research activities in the field of OMW treatment and valorization to new heights.
The integrated approach of OLITREVA covers different aspects influencing sustainable OMW treatment in Palestine. This is why, environmental based health concerns, socio-economic aspects such as olive mill farmers’ incomes, cultural barriers, low synergies between relevant stakeholders (such as olive oil associations, national donors, etc.) and the unstable political situation will be taken into consideration and addressed in the proposal. Furthermore, OLITREVA will draft for future applicable solutions through the development of a research strategy that will helps ARIJ to increase its scope and visibility among regional and European research organizations devoted to OMW and thus, raises its participation in international cooperation activities.
Moreover, this specific support action will contribute to the objectives of the EU policies by increasing cross-border cooperation between the EU and Palestinian research institutions devoted to OMW treatment and valorization, and promoting through extensive networking and dissemination activities, implementation of future joint actions in the same field. OLITREVA will enhance the exchange of scientific and technological knowledge as well as the cross fertilization of ideas and will provide more comprehensive scientific solutions to the common challenges.