07.12.2016 | fondazione zegna

Palestine: Oxfam defends the Bedouin tradition

The project supported by Fondazione Zegna protects the immense cultural and social heritage of the West Bank communities

Three days in the Bedouin camps in the West Bank zone, between East Jerusalem, Jericho and Bethlehem. This is the area covered by Silver Tent, a project being implemented with support from Oxfam and local NGOs and funded by Fondazione Zegna. It aims to give local communities a voice through projects ranging from advocacy to crafts, agriculture and pastoralism, etc.

We asked Francesco Trabaldo Togna, a member of Fondazione Zegna’s board, to tells us about his experience of the three-day exploration.


What difficulties are the Palestinian people having to deal with?

A nomadic population by definition, the Bedouins have been forced to stay in this area instead of moving around with the seasons in accordance with their traditions. The reason is the ban on building new dwellings or even renovating existing ones.


Did you meet any Bedouins in the area?

Yes, during our visit we met both the Bedouins who run the cooperative and implement and monitor the projects and the Bedouin communities themselves. We were thus able to collect important information about the way of life of the Bedouins and the most serious problems they are having to face everyday. Bedouins very often don’t have access to electricity or water, and when they do, taps are often shut off in favor of the settlements, which have always had privileged access to public services.


Are these the Bedouins’ only problems, or are there others?

First of all, there’s the difficulty in accessing pastureland for the Bedouins’ animals (goats, sheep, cows, camels). Being nomads by definition, as we already said, they subsist on their animals and their products (milk, cheese, clarified butter, etc.), so it’s vitally important for a community to have sufficient pastures to feed their animals, given they are nomads who move around according to the availability of grass and water. In addition to this, animal movements are hindered by asphalt roads and checkpoints blocking access to pastures. A number of communities said livestock numbers had fallen drastically due to these problems. What’s more, in losing access to pastures the Bedouins are forced to buy forage for their animals from the market. This means not only high costs but also lower quality nutrition for the animals.


How does the Silver Tent project Fondazione Zegna is supporting fit in to all this?

The work being done by Oxfam, Silver Tent and other local organizations is important for the safeguarding of traditional trades. As was explained to us in one of the meetings, Palestine has strong bonds with the Bedouin tradition, so losing that tradition would also mean losing the historical roots of entire populations. In this respect, some of the projects sponsored by Fondazione Zegna aim to recover the traditional activities of Bedouin women, from crafts to the production of cheese and other milk-based products. We met a group of women who had decided, with their “bottom-up” approach, to dedicate one of the pilot projects to the production of woolen nativity scenes, a craft that these young women are learning thanks to the know-how of women who ply this trade in other communities. So it’s a perpetuation of local traditions being handed down from generation to generation, and from community to community.