Near East Foundation (NEF)

Founded in 1915, the Near East Foundation's mission is to help build more sustainable, prosperous, and inclusive communities in the Middle East and Africa through education, governance, and economic development initiatives. NEF is an operational NGO with projects in seven countries -- Armenia, Egypt, Jordan, Mali, Morocco, Palestine, and Sudan -- where we work to directly improve the lives of tens of thousands of vulnerable people through programs in Peacebuilding, Civic Engagement and Education, Sustainable Agriculture, and Business Development. In the field, approximately 50 NEF staff members-all of them from the countries in which they work-partner with local organizations to find homeg...
Dec 27, 2011

Harvest Time

The harvest.
The harvest.

As a result of the conflict and on-going instability in South Kordofan, farmers never thought they would be able to cultivate crops this year.  They worried how they would feed and support their families. 

But, over the past two months, 300 farmers supported by the emergency relief project have successfully been able to harvest crops—after receiving seeds and cultivation support through the project. These crops will provide needed sustenance for families in the region, which continues to belplagued by instability.

The harvest period in South Kordofan typically runs between mid-October and January.  Most farmers supported through the emergency project sought to finish harvesting their crops in October.  The conflict and on-going instability in the region have reduced the land available to both farmers and herders—increasing conflict as nomadic groups try to move their animals through cultivated land.  In order to protect their product, farmers sought to harvest their crops as early as possible. Tractors were used to assist participating farmers in the harvest.

Average productivity of planted crops ranged between 2-5 sacks per fedan (a fedan is equal to approximately 1 acre). The project team will continue to provide extension support to participating farmers. 

Harvesting sorghum.
Harvesting sorghum.
In the fields.
In the fields.
Nov 15, 2011

140 Women in West Bank Benefit from NEF Training

Mona learns to use a computer
Mona learns to use a computer

Over the past year, 140 women from ten organizations in the northern West Bank participated in over 70 hours of training offered by the Near East Foundation.

Mona, aged 60, is one of the women who benefitted from NEF training.  She is treasurer of the Beita Women’s Association, a job she managed for many years with only a notebook and pencil.  With the assistance of the Near East Foundation, Mona has professionalized and improved her work—and helped advance the work of the Beita Association.

Training topics included communications skills, preparing and using financial records, feasibility studies for small businesses, working as a team, planning, hygiene, safety, and health.

Mona attended all of the training sessions with enthusiasm and participated actively.  She was especially interested in computer lessons and accounting sessions.  Prior to the trainings, Mona had never used a computer.  Now, Mona can use a computer to improve her bookkeeping and the records of the Beita Association.

“Seek knowledge from the cradle to the grave,” is the principle that Mona continues to live by, as she works to improve the lives of women in her community—and share what she has learned.

Palestinian women participate in NEF training
Palestinian women participate in NEF training
Oct 12, 2011

Training and Microcredit Improving Life in Sudan's Gum Belt

Hosna Abker sits by her new butane gas cooker.
Hosna Abker sits by her new butane gas cooker.

Training in new production methods and financing through microcredit are allowing gum arabic producers to protect forests and improve their income.

Hosna Abker Ahmed Ismail, 34, is a farmer in Abu Hamra, a village in Sudan’s Um Ruwaba locality of North Kordofan. Until last year, she tended a small garden and helped in gum arabic cultivation—tapping trees to produce this marketable gum. Like many women in this poverty-stricken rural area, she struggled to find fuel for cooking and the resources to feed her family of eight.

Over the past year, Hosna Abker has participated in the Near East Foundation’s Sustainable Gum Arabic Production project—a project that has changed her life. 

Hosna is one of 400+ producers that received training through the project. Many also benefited from the project’s microcredit funds, which give farmers loans to obtain the supplies they need to help grow their business.

“Before the trainings, I did not care about gum arabic trees,” she said.  “I cut the trees for wood.  I used very bad tools for tapping.  I stored the gum in plastic bags, which changed its color, smell, and shape—and reduced the market price.”

Through trainings, Hosna Abker learned how to use better tools for tapping (the sonki).  She learned how to properly collect, clean, and store gum to retain its highest value; she also learned how to sort, dry, and store seeds for future planting. She learned the environmental importance of the gum arabic forests.

Based on her new knowledge, Hosna Abker no longer wanted to have to cut gum arabic trees for fuel. She applied for a microcredit grant to purchase a butane gas cooker.  This cooker lasts for several months, and allows her a number of extra hours each day – time she previously spent collecting wood. She now spends more time with her children, and more time helping with other income generating activities – tapping trees, working in her garden, and improving her family’s livelihood.

With her new knowledge and resources, Hosna Abker’s outlook has changed.  She has more hope for the future.

“Before the trainings, I just cared for my garden,” she said. “Now I will improve my life through agriculture, gum arabic, and microcredit projects. I will do more to increase my activities in the future, so as to improve my life, increase my family income, and achieve my hopes.

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