Jordan Badia- The United Nations Development Program in Jordan implemented emergency measures to help livestock farmers in "saving the wool and milk season" and alleviating the effects of a nation-wide curfew imposed to prevent the spread of the Coronavirus.
The UNDP’s Badia project, which is funded by the Ministry of Environment/Badia Restoration Programme and implemented in participation with the Ministry of Agriculture and the Jordan Cooperative Corporation supplied 25 local cooperatives with equipment and training to allow them to offer services to the communities at the Northern, Middle and Southern Badia that largely depend on sheep farming as a main source of income.
The Government of Jordan imposed a nation-wide curfew that stopped most economic activity. The curfew came at the peak of the “Sheep milking season” and therefore all the activities taking place in the spring including milking, sheep shearing and producing milk byproducts such as cheese came to a complete halt. According to some local cooperatives in the area, due to the curfew, shadow sheep shearing activities emerged and livestock owners were exploited with high cost, low-quality manual methods.
In coordination with the government, the UNDP intervened allowed organized sheep milking and shearing under strict health measures. Members of the local cooperatives were trained on modern and animal-friendly milking and shearing skills using advanced electrical shearing clippers.
Director of the Badia Hands Cooperative Ayada Al Sharafat said members of his cooperative had to depend on manual shearing methods for years, which were economically unfeasible, expensive and with limited considerations for animals’ well-being. This local cooperative serves a population of 40,000 residents, largely dependent on sheep farming as a sole source of income for decades.
“During the lockdown, we were exploited by non-expert manual shearers who charged us double the usual cost for very bad service until the UNDP intervened and quickly applied methods to help us,” he said.
In each local cooperative, staff were trained to teach members of the local community with new income-generating skills allowing them to provide quality service to a larger number of sheep and goat raisers.
Ghaith Al Ojayyan was trained to shear sheep by the project and works as a freelance service to sheep and goat raisers in his community in Um Al Quttein. Before joining, he had no job – now he gets an average of JD40 ($56) a day.
“Although sheep farming has been our profession for years, I never learned how to properly shear sheep,” he said, as he paused “I was trained for a month on using electric shearing clippers and I can shear a sheep in under one minute,” the university graduate with a major in history said.
The project also trained women of the community on this essential desert skill. Entissar Khaled, 18, learned how to use electric shearing clippers to cut sheep wool and care for the animals. Wearing personal protective gear, she prepares animals for the annual regimen with skill and ease.
The high school student is pleased she learned this skill because it is safer for the animals.
“I have raised sheep all my life, and I feel really happy to see that shearing is not painful for them anymore. The process is also faster and cleaner,” she added.
The UNDP has also ensured the quick and timely flow of fresh milk from sheep farmers to local cooperatives that are producing cheese. Eleven cooperatives in the Badia have been the recipients of training and modern equipment for cheese making. The UNDP renovated and upgraded their dairy-production facilities with new production machines and small labs to test the quality of milk before processing.
During the lockdown, milk prices plummeted due to low demand, and the UNDP together with the Minister of Environment and Acting Minister of Agriculture Saleh Al Kharabsheh ensured that sheep farmers safely transport milk to societies at fair prices.
Members of the societies received training on business techniques, the policy-regulatory framework for micro and small-enterprises in Jordan, in addition to tools to access big markets. They also received hands-on training on the best practices for cheese production, storage and hygiene practices.
UNDP has also helped the local cooperatives develop Al Awassi Cheese, a national brand, known for high-quality and found in major markets across the region.