Agriculture opens a new source of income for women in Mafraq

Agriculture opens a new source of income for women in Mafraq
Sunday 26 March, 2023

Women make up 49% of the rural Jordanian population. In contrast to what is known that the largest number of rural women working in agriculture, the relative distribution of working rural women showed that the proportion of women working in agriculture, forestry, and fishing does not exceed 0.8% and their ownership of Agricultural Holdings does not exceed 6%. This is due to many reasons, including the deterioration of working conditions on farms, the most prominent of which is the existence of a culture of shame.

Ikram’s life as a mother of three children was stable and calm until the start of the corona pandemic in 2020. Her husband lost his job, and the family had to move to Al-Ma’amariya area in the Mafraq governorate. “We had to look for a job opportunity in Al-Ma’amariya area, but the pandemic prevented us from finding any opportunity. Therefore, I thought about starting farming to support my family, and I used the land around the house we had recently moved to,” said Ikram.

During the pandemic, after Ikram started farming and production, the situation of her family began to improve. People of the region loved her products, and the demand for cucumbers and eggplants, which Ikram grew organically, increased. “I took advantage of my studies in the field of Agricultural Engineering to produce organic vegetables free of fertilizers and chemical pesticides. This distinguished my products, and made the people of the region constantly demand them,” said Ikram.

The Smart DESERT project works to support workers in the agricultural sector in the north-eastern Badia regions. In order to create new job opportunities, achieve sustainable income for workers in this sector, improve their working conditions, and provide opportunities for the development of home-based agricultural projects.

At the beginning of her project, Ikram faced some problems. In addition to society’s rejection of the idea of women owning an agricultural project due to the need to hire male workers, profits were also low due to the consumption of large amounts of water by crops. Weather conditions also affected the production of a large part of crops that were exposed to the scorching sun in summer and the extreme cold in winter.

The Smart DESERT project provided Ikram with a plastic house to which she transferred the crops that were exposed. Only months later, Ikram managed to pick the fruits. Ikram said, “I would not be able to reach this stage without the Smart DESERT project, the plastic house that was provided to me by the project spared me significant losses that could have happened to my crops if they were still exposed.”

The production was much better this time, which made Ikram hire fifty workers, including twenty-six Syrian refugee women, to help her take care of the plants. She hired women because she had suffered previously from society’s perception of agricultural workers. She made her project a decent working environment for every woman seeking to support herself and her family.

The support and guidance provided by the Smart DESERT project team also strengthened Ikram’s confidence in her project. Which enabled her to register and license it officially, and start expanding to grow new varieties that have not been previously grown in the region, such as the Azolla plant that livestock breeders need in her region. She additionally invested the profits of the project in growing other varieties that adopt hydroponics, such as onions and Lettuce of all kinds.

Ikram hopes that every farmer will find support to be able to preserve his crops. She also believes that agricultural projects are the best contribution to a sustainable economy. She said about the culture of shame, “we should not give in to society’s opinion, especially when it is not based on logical things. When one woman rises, an entire society rises. A small project like mine managed to provide job opportunities for twenty-six women, each of whom contributed to a new income for her family.”

The smart Desert project is funded by the French Development Agency. It is implemented by a group of international and local organizations led by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. It provides support to agricultural entrepreneurs in several stages by providing them with equipment and ­guidance regarding the registration and licensing process, Linking their projects with local markets، facilitating partnerships, and supporting networking in the market