Dar Nemeh’s Humble Beginning
Deep in the hills of Ajloun in a smaller city known as Kufranjeh is the UNDP funded Dar Nemeh project. Dar Nemeh started as an initiative by the Princess Taghrid Institute for women’s empowerment and has since taken flight in engaging the local women of Ajloun to harvest, sell, and even distillate native aromatic plants. Prior to the project, Kufranjeh was a sleepy farm area of Ajloun, not well-known to most Jordanians. Today, Dar Nemeh has put Kufranjeh on the map for its beautiful scenery, food, and women empowerment.
Three years ago, before UNDP’s intervention, the area where Dar Nemeh currently is remained an empty, dilapidated house with an attached barren farm land. Following Princess Taghrid Institute’s initiative and implementation, along with the support of UNDP, the farmland was transformed into a farm for herbs and plants, while the house was renovated to serve as both a venue and distillation site for the harvested products.
Plants for Empowerment: Dar Nemeh’s Laboratory
At the distillation laboratory, local chemical engineers are employed to create aromatic goods from the gathered farm harvest. The finished products include distilled water, oil extracts, oil diffusers, and candles. Outside of individual products, the laboratory is also able to sell its extractions in bulk to cosmetic companies to provide organic, all-natural substitutes for otherwise chemically enhanced aromas.
“One plant that is central to our project”, says Wisal Rbeihat, an Ajlouni native who serves as the coordinator for the local CBO, “is the Damascus Rose. This rose, transported out of Syria for its beauty and rarity, yields the most desired oils and only blooms for three weeks per year. It is very rare, but with our engineers, we have managed to salvage the rose and create products to sell back to Jordanians.”
The Damascus rose, Wisal reported, was brought to Jordan from Syria nearly 5 years ago. Today, Dar Nemeh hosts 400 Damascus Rose bushes that blossom exclusively in July.
Ruba Ananzeh, the lead chemical engineer of the project, is in charge of Damascus Rose extractions as well as the laboratory at large. Prior to her employment with Dar Nemeh, Ruba was living in local impoverished village close to the site as an unemployed graduate with an degree in chemical engineering. “Before, there was a tradition in the local area that prevented women from going out to get work or an education”, Ruba stated “Today, it’s different, because here I am able to lead an entire laboratory.”
At the distillation site, Ruba described Dar Nemeh’s laboratory. “The Dar Nemeh laboratory is proud to be accredited by the Jordanian FDA.” Ruba explained, “This way we are able to have our organic products both in the hands of the locals and on the shelves abroad.”
Ruba continued to detail the step-by-step activities within the lab. First, the local herbs are collected. Afterwards, they are washed, soaked, and then filtered. The herbs are then prepared for the distillation machine. Following the distillation, the product is collected for to be packaged. Local products, Ruba explained, are packaged with PTI’s logo at Dar Nemeh, while the products exported abroad are sent out en masse.
“Give the bread to the baker”, said Ruba Ananzeh, the lead chemical engineer at the Dar Nemeh project. “Because the baker knows what to do. Princess Taghrid gave me the bread and look what I’ve done.”
Dar Nemeh At A Distance
Other local women involved in Dar Nemeh outside of the laboratory also come from small surrounding villages in Ajloun. They hold positions outside of the laboratory, including cooking and making crafts to sell back in Amman. The women are also able to cook and profit from their local cuisine when Dar Nemeh hosts large gatherings of visitors, NGOs, or private sector groups. By being involved with Dar Nemeh, these women are able to sustain an income and support their households.
Dr. Aghadeer Jhweihan, Director General of Princess Taghrid Institute, described Dar Nemeh as “one of the most important social development projects that opens doors for local women to see and sustain a life outside of the village.”
Recently, Dar Nemeh has been put on the Jordan Trail, a 650km long trail created to revive tourism in Jordan. Looking ahead, the organization hopes to establish itself as a destination for tourists and expand the project to create additional Dar Nemeh branches in other governorates of Jordan.