Olive trees and women

After these fires, this drought and these pandemics, my spirit went to the women who live by picking olives: an ancestral tradition and hard work.
So what are the difficulties that women are facing this year for the olive harvest? What are their working and living conditions? The organization of rural women of the wilaya of Béjaïa AFUD helped me to meet rural women and their husbands, they tell us at first sight: “this year the olive harvest was threatened not only by drought but by fires too. »
This exchange with them in Kabylia in the olive groves during the harvest seemed to me most interesting, indeed watching them work, I think they deserve to be called ants and bees of rural areas! The women of Akbou work in groups patiently, tirelessly and organize themselves in two ways depending on whether they own or not and their financial situation.
If the families are not in need, they pick the olives together, the oil obtained is shared between them. On the other hand, if they are, they will sell the olive oil.
For rural women, olive trees are not only a considerable economic contribution but also an important social link.
Noria is a widow and mother of two young and sick daughters, one is epileptic and the other has an autoimmune disease. Noria is not yet entitled to the survivor’s pension which is until she is 55 years old and her daughters require special and expensive care, hence this seasonal work which allows her to meet the needs of her little ones.
Nassima and Chikh Omar, for their part, are very happy to receive family and friends to do the Twiza, which is a group and solidarity work.
Picking is done as in the past, by hand, without machines or any equipment. The husbands beat the branches with sticks and the wives harvest the olives.
They advance together on the sloping ground which is difficult to access, they work in rows, so as to rake wide because no olive remains on the ground or on the tree to have a maximum of oil, in fact five kilos of olives give a liter of oil.
The major oil producers, in the season, offer remuneration between 1000 and 1500 dinars per day depending on the number of kilos of olives harvested.
The women are getting organized for this picking season: Waking up is between 4 a.m. and 5 a.m. to prepare breakfast, lunch and a snack that they will share in the fields.
They start picking at 9am, take a short break of half an hour and end their day at sunset. Songs follow this ritual except death. Since this pandemic, the work has been even harder because you have to put on your bib and keep your distance, but rural women, according to them, have not been affected by the confinement because they have continued to work in the fields, which is not the case for some members of their family who live in the city, indeed some women have suffered from domestic violence.

Rural women feel freed from the tensions of the home and find a certain peace when they can go to work in the fields, although this work is difficult for them.
They are motivated by the sale of the oil which allows them to make ends meet and also share it with relatives and friends.
They cherish this ritual and do it in any condition. It is important in their eyes to perpetuate the education of mutual aid, group work and the preservation of certain salutary gestures for the safeguarding of heritage and the preservation of local food resources, land, health, family ties and the neighborhood.
The year was very difficult and despite all these difficulties, they came together and harvested the olives, taking the necessary preventive measures. They play a major role in the preservation of the environment, heritage and solidarity actions. They have a lot of courage and merit.