By Kasia Souchen, CARE Canada's Marketing Outreach Manager
This was the third street we had turned down to try to find a route to get us back to Ramallah, West Bank.
There was tear gas used on some of the routes so it wasn’t safe to go down certain roads.
With no satellite phone connection in these parts, we stopped to ask passersby for alternate routes.
Having spent the day at an eco-farm in the heat of Jordan Valley with women who ran it without a well or water supply, I began to realize the challenges facing farmers here.
Despite these obstacles, Raida makes it happen.
Raida started a women’s only ecological and organic farm. She was given a bag of thyme seeds and asked to grown them in an inhospitable environment in a period of two months.
Raida brought together a group of women because she knew there was strength in numbers. Not being able to get help from her brothers and and other male friends and family, the women set out on the daunting task.
“The men first made fun of us, because we were planting thyme seeds in a very dry soil. We had to walk every day to get the barren field and without a well for water, we started to use rain water to be able to water our thyme seeds,” Raida recalls, describing her humble beginnings.
She is nostalgic about the early days of the co-operative and laughs often when recounting the story.
“But we came together, as a group of women, with a mission to grow these thyme seeds. But the thyme seeds were symbolic of so much more. It was the end of inequality for us,” says Raida.
The co-operative expanded and there are now 150 female farmers working together. CARE worked to help the women form a business plan and design irrigation practices to help combat the hot weather and the lack of water supply. Rain barrels were set up to capture and store rain and small water pipes were laid in the fields to distribute the water in the most efficient manner.
As a result of these efforts, the products are ecological and organic. The produce is free of pesticides and fertilizers - features that are becoming more in demand in West Bank and neighbouring countries. The co-op’s market is growing and so is their supply and confidence.
The women work together everyday. They have income to invest further into the eco-farm and to send their children to school. They feel a new power to make financial decisions that affect families.
“The biggest differences have been from the men in the community and other male farmers,” Raida beams with pride here. “The men now ask us for advice and our brothers and fathers now make sure we are at community meetings and that we have a seat at the table.”
As I drove back through the dry and deserted Jordan Valley, I thought of how Raida is changing her entire community, bringing a group of women together to make the impossible possible and working with men to change stereotypes and roles. At the end of our day, we met a young woman who visited the eco-farm and was working on promotional materials to boost the product sales, I thought how her path is being redefined. Raida also spoke of her own daughter and the different life she will have just by watching her mom, a woman in the community, build, succeed and create lasting change.
CARE is bringing us together, in the Jordan Valley of West Bank, where water, roads and supplies are scarce, for women like Raida, and women in more than 95 developing countries around the world.