While women in many rural areas in Jordan are still practicing the traditional ways of home food processing, a group of ambitious local women in Ebbin - Ajloun, are working hard to turn this process into a standardized system benefitting from the small grant Fatima Al-Momani, head of the association was awarded through the “Promoting Local Economic Development in Jordan” (PLEDJ) which is funded by the European Delegation in Jordan.
“Most of us were housewives with no jobs. We are now using the money we make here to support our kids and families”
A Grassroots Business
After few years of establishing Anwar Ebbin Association with the goal to support farmers and train local women in Ajloun governorate on food processing techniques, Fatima and other female members, thought of starting a new project to help local farmer ladies to work in leased farms. The target was to allow these women to make money by gathering fruit and vegetables that can be turned into other forms like jam and pickles. The work in this type of food processing was going smoothly but still, there was a gap to fill.
“Not all the vegetables and fruit that is popular in Ajloun can be turned into pickles and jam, so we had to think of another way solve this problem”. Al-Momani says.
Women used to dry tomatoes and pumpkins in small amounts when they noticed how tourists sought to buy these products at farmers markets and exhibitions they participated in Amman – the capital city. This is when Fatima decided to start the dried food business to help her friends and colleagues at the association scale up to produce larger amounts of dried food.
“The Drying Fruits and Vegetables Project” in Ajloun was established in 2016 after Fatima was granted a small fund through the “Promoting Local Economic Development in Jordan” (PLEDJ) which is funded by the European Delegation in Jordan.
Learning Technical Know-How
Women workers in Anwar Ebbin follow old methods of sun drying fruits and vegetables which is the cleanest and healthiest way of preserving food through drying as no chemicals are used in the process.
Dried tomatoes, mulukhiyah, grapes, and figs are among the popular products local women in Ajloun make and sell. Though they dry herbs like common sage and thyme as well, they focus their efforts on dried food to avoid high competition in other fields. A business tip they learned during the business development and marketing training they received as participants in the PLEDJ project. With the help of EU’s grant, they have purchased a drying room with certin specifications to speed up the drying process based on advise from their trainers and mentors as well as machinery.
Working on developing skills and capacity building for these women is an essential part of the PLEDJ grant. This training aims at teaching more women how to dry food and add more trained hands that can help in producing food professionally. To fulfil this goal, PLEDJ assigned an agricultural engineer to give professional training on how to process food in a professional way for the local women.
Supporting Other Women
Shatha Bataineh -a housewife and one of the beneficiaries of Anwar Ebbin project activities expressed how this project had changed her life: “The training I received in this association was very useful on all levels”.
The professional training taught her how to use the right techniques to dry food and store it. Like many other housewives in the governorate, she processed food in a traditional manner, not knowing how to best preserve it and eliminate waste.
Anwar Ebbin Association is now a hub for training, sales and marketing of processed food for many women in Ajloun. The office building has an area for food exhibitions, and food processing training is held regularly for women who would like to learn and join.
“Most of us were housewives with no jobs. We are now using the money we make here to support our kids and families”. Bataineh says.
The association re-uses the profit to make more products and pay for farm lease arrangements and secure their fruits and vegetables supplies. The power of group work that these local women are showing helps them to achieve more.
Anwar Ebbin Association provides their equipped office space as a venue for training courses for the community, a money generating activity that helps sustain the business.
On the other hand, the association offers services to other businesses taking full advantage of the grindery and packaging machines they bought using part of the EU grant.
Fatima and her colleagues hope to open a shop in Irbid or Amman cities to display the association’s food products once they secure more funds.