The humanitarian needs have been further exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic and the escalation of hostilities in May 2021, which negatively impacted livelihoods and access to essential services in Gaza. An estimated 1.32 million people in Gaza are assessed as needing humanitarian assistance, 63.0% of Gaza’s residents.
Households dependent on agricultural livelihoods, including 30,000 families of farmers, herders, and fishers, have all suffered debilitating damage and losses. Losses include virtually all types of the assets needed to generate an income from agriculture and supply local markets with food, such as: farmland, greenhouses, wells, herds, animal sheds, boats, fishing gear, and food processing plants. This is a critical issue, given agriculture is currently the only productive sector contributing to the reduction of food insecurity among the people of Gaza.
The role of women’s cooperatives in the local community in marketing farmers’ freshly harvested crops and creating job opportunities (for women) has huge potential, and in this project was extremely successful.
A marketing specialist was recruited to work directly with a women’s cooperative, to improve the processing of products, packaging, and distribution to the local market.
This enabled the cooperative to gear up its capacity and sales volume.
A survey of the women’s cooperatives and production units in Gaza was completed.
A women’s cooperative was selected in Rafah.
The project and the women in the cooperative prioritised their equipment needs, to increase the cooperative’s capacity to process and market food.
The capacity improvement occurred at different levels:
1 - Physical capacity upgrading: this included provision of key items of equipment for cooking and packaging, and a freezer. As well as other tools and equipment (such as 10,000 food packing containers, 500 packaging bags, etc.).
2 - Diversifying and increasing the number of products: the project assisted the cooperative in expanding its production to seven products instead of just one, sage. With the cooperative utilizing its existing and newly provided resources, the production lines are now:
Zucchini and eggplant coring. Main tools & equipment provided included: stainless steel basin, coring hand tools (x6), stainless-steel tables (x2), chairs (x6), manual nylon-roll packing stand, and cork plates. A freezer was supplied for storage of products.
Dried herbs, includes: sage, thyme, molokheya, and doqqa. Equipment and tools provided included: stainless-steel washing basin, grinding machine, sun-dryer, and nylon packing belt.
Seasonal products, such as chilli peppers and ajwa, grinding and packing these items and producing boxes of ajwa cookies. Tools provided included: two stainless-steel washing basins, grinding machine, gas stove, gas oven, manual nylon-roll packing stand for food, and cork plates.
3 - Increasing the ‘know-how’ of the cooperative: the marketing specialist provided on-the job training on a continuous basis. Also, technical workshops were advised by the project team on: 1) how to use the drying and packaging equipment effectively and, 2) marketing and advertising.
4 - Improving the marketing of the products: through establishing new marketing channels with larger sized sellers throughout Gaza. The project enabled the cooperative to target mass sellers, instead of only marketing to the local neighbourhood of the cooperative (which is poor and marginalised). The project assisted the cooperative to open five new marketing channels with large stores in busy shopping locations.
The project also contracted a media company to assist as a marketing facilitator; they designed the packaging for the cooperative’s products. They also launched Facebook and Instagram pages for the cooperative.
5 - The operational support of the cooperative: through the job-placement of six women in the cooperative for two months, the capacity of the cooperative has expanded; increasing its productivity and ability to reach new markets with a wider variety of products. Sales from the additional product lines were able to be reinvested back into the co-operative after the project ended, helping to sustain its activities.
6 - The linkage of the cooperative with farmers: the cooperative coordinates with the local farmers, to buy some of their freshly harvested crops, which are then processed within the cooperative, packaged, and sold in Gaza.
In this particular project, the women’s cooperative bought the crops of eight farmers.
Working with women’s co-operatives is helping to sustain and create additional livelihood opportunities for women in Gaza. It is also creating a new marketing channel for the farmers' crops, which is very important given the ongoing siege, increasing the availability of products and reducing food insecurity.
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