The Strawberry King: #usaidwbg Storytelling Series

A compilation of visual narratives from the field

Illustration by Mayra Magalhaes

Strawberries are not new to the West Bank. But growing them is. Osama Abu Al-Rub is one of only 20 strawberry farmers in the West Bank. He owns a farm in Qabatiya, in Jenin Governorate, with his wife Ezdihar and his daughter Hanin.

“My family is a blessing from God.” — Osama Abu Al-Rub

Osama started growing strawberries eight years ago, in the traditional way. He planted strawberries in the ground, where they were susceptible to poor soil conditions, pests and imprecise irrigation. In 2013, Osama became one of a handful of West Bank growers to receive USAID support to boost the strawberry sector and other targeted parts of the Palestinian economy.

This is one of the stories we captured as we visited our projects to learn more about the impact of USAID’s work on everyday lives. When we visited Osama’s farm, we were struck by his entrepreneurial spirit, love for his family and beautiful strawberries.

Photo by Bobby Neptune. Animation by Jessica Tan.

With USAID assistance, Osama lifted his fruit off the ground. He started using greenhouses and a special, isolated soil. This protects the strawberries and allows him to better monitor the nutrients that feed his crop. He uses just a fraction of the pesticides he did before. He also began using computerized irrigation which dramatically decreases the amount of water he uses — a precious resource in the West Bank.

Photo by Bobby Neptune for USAID

Now, even though only half of Osama’s strawberry plants are hanging, they make up around 80 percent of what he harvests and sells. Osama and Hanin sell their strawberries to local fruit vendors through the region. And they can barely keep up with demand.

Osama and his daughter Hanin. Photo by Bobby Neptune for USAID

Hanin studies agronomy at the local university, following in her father’s footsteps. The success of the strawberry farm has allowed Osama to send Hanin to University. Osama is proud of what he grows. His farm is a model for the next generation of farmers and agronomists. A group of Hanin’s classmates at Al-Quds University visit the farm at least once a term to study the modern methods that Osama uses to grow his most lucrative crop. He could not be prouder of Hanin for pursuing the family business.

“I will do anything to make your dreams come true. Especially with your studies.” — Osama Abu Al-Rub

USAID boosts the local economy by helping Palestinian farmers introduce new crops with high export potential, including strawberries, red potatoes, broccoli, mangoes, fruit trees and grapes.

Photo by Bobby Neptune for USAID

This blog is part of USAID’s West Bank and Gaza storytelling series. It is a compilation of stories of individuals, families and communities working to improve their societies — towards growth and progress. They are the inspiring stories of people we work with.

Explore more stories from the Middle East. Check out more video portraits at USAID’s storytelling hub. Follow @USAIDWBG @USAIDMiddleEast and @USAID.

About the Author

Sahar Kalifa is the Director of Communications at USAID’s mission to the West Bank and Gaza. Most recently, she led several campaigns for USAID including the agency’s first regional communications initiative. In this capacity, she produced new content for USAID’s storytelling and multimedia platforms focusing on human interest stories from around the world.