In the context of our project “Empowering in the Palestinian youth in Area C in a sustainable and equitable way against COVID-19 throughout the agribusiness” that we implement with our local partner Palestinian Agricultural Relief Committees (PARC) and is funded by AECID, a visit took place yesterday to four of the 17 young people whose entrepreneurial ideas were selected from more than 230 candidates, becoming viable business models after the incubation phase and receiving seed capital for the creation of their start-up.
The project team was accompanied by the delegation of the AECID Technical Cooperation Office in Jerusalem, and had the opportunity to learn first-hand the story of each of the entrepreneurs who have seen their dream of starting their own business in the Jordan Valley, Area C, come true.
The tour began in Zbeidat, accompanying the working group that packages basil for export to international markets (including the USA and Europe). The company employs 27 women and 3 men who harvest, sort and pack basil from farmers in the area, so that the farmers receive a fair price and the plant workers receive a living wage and decent employment conditions without having to resort to looking for work in nearby Israeli settlements. With the construction of the new plant, which will be fully operational in 4 weeks, it is expected to increase the number of workers to 50 and include two new crops for export.
The visit continued with Derar, a young university student and small-scale fruit grower, who identified the need to create in Jiftlek, a town with a long tradition of growing the Mejdoul date variety, special bags to protect the fruit in the palm trees called “anti-thrips nets”. These have micro-perforations that allow air to circulate through the bag but prevent access to insects, thus protecting the dates until they are harvested. His business is the only one of this kind in the Jordan Valley, so his launch into the market at a local price makes him highly competitive with the current supply of nets from China or the Israeli market. Consuming local products helps the economy of the area (every euro spent on local products generates twice as much for the local economy), as well as creating jobs, as initially 3 local women will be in charge of making/repairing the leggings, thus continuing to generate wealth and jobs within their community.
Later on, the delegation travelled to Atouf to meet Kifah, a young laboratory technician, who decided to grow pitaya, an unconventional fruit that is in great demand in the Palestinian market. The crop belongs to the cactus family, so the dry and hot climate of the Jordan Valley favours its production, and its limited water consumption makes it an excellent choice to ensure the sustainability of production.
Pitaya is rich in fibre, antioxidants, phytonutrients, vitamins and minerals, as well as containing healthy fatty acids and probiotics. Kifah uses organic manures and fertilisers, thus ensuring an optimal, sustainable and quality end product.
The day was rounded off with a visit to Mohammad and his business of creating cattle feed by cultivating wolffia, an aquatic plant that grows in stagnant water, and with the help of the project, 4 special pond pools have been constructed. Mohammad had worked on a research project on this plant in Turkey and decided to transfer the experience to his own country. This high-protein plant will later be mixed with maize to increase the calorific value and ensure good livestock feed. In order to make the most sustainable use of resources possible, two more ponds have been installed next to the ponds where tilapia will be raised, whose organic waste will be used as a natural fertiliser for the plants and later sold on the local market. Likewise, the water from the wolffia will be used, after a filtering process, to irrigate the potato crops located next to the ponds, while the electricity needed to power the drying and crushing machinery comes from solar panels. This is an example of an innovative and environmentally friendly business model.
We at the Foundation are very proud of all of them!