The Arab Center for Agricultural Development was established in 1988 as a project under the name “the United Agricultural Company” in both Jericho and Ramallah cities. The Company aimed at building the economic capacities of small farmers, who were facing risks of collapsing during the Palestinian First Intifada, through in-kind financing. At the beginning, the Company targeted the agricultural areas in the Jordan Valley and then it extended its work to include the Center West Bank and Nablus in the north West Bank.
In 1993, this project was institutionalized to become a developmental organization registered as non-government non-profit organization in/Jerusalem under the name “Arab Center for Agricultural Development” as a center specialized in financing small enterprises. The Center identified its general objectives in developing the agricultural sector and helping small farmers through financing, marketing and technical support.
In 1996, ACAD opened a branch in Gaza Strip.
In 2000, ACAD prepared the first triple strategic plans, which was based on the comprehensive development concept in the agricultural sector through two complementary themes:
Financing the income generating small agricultural enterprises in most of the agricultural areas in Palestine.
Providing technical services and building the farmers’ capacities and the marginalized rural areas.
Accordingly, two semi detached departments were established: the Finance Department and the Projects and Support Services Department.
In 2003, ACAD set up the second strategic plan, which aimed at expanding the financing field from the agricultural sector to the rural financing in addition to diversification of projects to include services projects and commercial projects with special focus on women and rural women in particular. In the field of support services, these services were expanded to include infrastructure, water, baseline organizations and cooperative societies in the marginalized rural areas. This is in addition to expanding the Center’s geographical scope of work and opening branches in all the West Bank governorates and a branch in Gaza city.
ACAD accumulated a long experience in providing finance services and in developmental projects in a manner that it has become an important part of the small and microfinance sector and the non-governmental development sector in Palestine.
Since the launch of the finance project in 1988 until the end of 2013, ACAD has financed 14,773 projects with an amount of US$ 34 million, in addition to financing 30 cooperative societies with an amount of US$ 500,000.
At the level of developmental activity, during the period 2000 to 2013, ACAD has financed 61 developmental projects in the field of capacity building, food security, water, land reclamation, infrastructure, capacity building of community based organizations and in the field of lobbying and advocacy in an amount of US$ 10 million.
ACAD also played an outstanding role in developing the non-government developmental work in Palestine as it was one of the initiators for establishing the Palestinian Non-Governmental Organizations Network in 1994 and participated in finalizing the Palestinian Non-Governmental Organizations Law, which was issued in 2000.
ACAD was also a pioneer in finalizing the small and microfinance sector in Palestine. It co-established the Palestinian Network for Small and Microfinance in 2002 and has presided its board of directors for six years. With support from the European Union, ACAD initiated the preparation of the Small and Microfinance Draft Law, which was adopted by the Palestinian Network for Small and Microfinance and submitted to the Palestinian Monetary Authority in 2006. This Draft Law is considered the foundation for the Regulation of the Specialized Lending Institutions issued by the Palestinian Monetary Authority.
ACAD has built broad partnerships at the local level, especially with the Ministry of Agriculture, Ministry of National Economy, the Palestinian Monetary Authority and the Palestinian civil organizations. It also effectively participated in formulating the Palestinian national strategies.
At the international level, ACAD has broad partnerships with most international parties working in Palestine such as the European Union, the main donor, UNDP, the Islamic Bank for Development based in Jeddah, the American Ministry of agriculture, the Norwegian People’s Aid, the French Development Agency, and many other non-governmental organizations.
After the issuance of the Specialized Lending Institutions Regulation in 2003, that confines the non-banking lending and financing activities in specialized institutions licensed by the Ministry of National Economy and the Palestinian Monetary Authority, ACAD embarked on negotiations with international partners and investors. These negotiations led to the establishment of ACAD Finance with a capital of US$ 5.35 in which ACAD owns 56% of its shares while the remaining shares are owned by the European Investment Bank, Grameen Microfinance Institution in France, The French SIDI, and the Dutch Triple Jump. ACAD Finance will limit its activities in social dimensional small and microfinance and target marginalized rural areas and poor farmers and productive women.
ACAD five-year plan points out that it will provide financial services for more than 10 thousand enterprises until 2018 with an amount of US$ 45 million of which more than 70% are women beneficiaries.
On the other hand, ACAD the center, the mother non-profit organization, will continue developing and expanding its developmental non-financial services and reaching the most marginalized communities in the West Bank.
Although ACAD and ACAD Finance are two financially and administratively independent institutions as well as at the level of governance and legal framework, they are integrated within the concept of comprehensive integration that target marginalized and poor communities and support their steadfastness through contributing to the success of their small agricultural enterprises or others.