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...
Aug 14, 2013

53 Palestinian Women Receive Business Training and Support

Palestinian women in a recent NEF training session
Palestinian women in a recent NEF training session

Women in the West Bank village of Qabatia are busy planning for their future business after learning about a new opportunity: making stone carvings.

Stone cutting is a leading industry in the area – but it has always been dominated by men because of the physical effort required for many jobs. However, at a recent NEF workshop in the community to discuss income-generating opportunities for women, a representative from the local stonecutters union introduced the idea that women could work with stone remnants – a low-cost by-product of manufacturing – and transform the smaller stone pieces into carvings or home decorations for sale.

In Qabatia and elsewhere in the West Bank, NEF continues to empower women by supporting them in developing business opportunities in both innovative and traditional industries. We provide the training and financing they need to make their dreams of earning an income a reality.

Since our last report, 53 Palestinian women have participated in business development workshops sponsored by NEF in the villages of Qabatia-Jenin, Nablus, and Salfeet.

During the multi-day training sessions, women learn a variety of skills – such as product development, management, accounting and finance, and marketing.

After completing the training, they are encouraged to submit a business plan for consideration of funding.

This year, NEF has approved 40 business plans proposed by women in the West Bank to receive financing and begin the development process. The plans are selected based on criteria such as the business idea and a market evaluation of their competitive advantage in the area.

The women will pursue businesses in farming, food processing, and other areas – like craft production or retail shops. They range in age from 25 – 56 years old and have education levels varying from no secondary education to a university degree.

Beyond financial support, NEF will help coach the women at every step of the way as they develop and launch their businesses.

We are also supporting economic development more broadly in the West Bank by bringing community residents together to identify income-generating opportunities for women, based on local needs, skills, and demands.

Sometimes these discussions involve brainstorming solutions to barriers that prevent women from working in a certain area – like the women working with stone remnants in Qabatia. In Salfeet, one of the opportunity areas discussed was cooking and baking. While this is a traditional business of both men and women in the West Bank, men generally operate their own retail bakeries to earn an income while women produce at home and sell only when they have pre-orders. The group discussed ways for women to increase sales by better promoting their products.

Beyond providing direct support to women in the West Bank, the NEF team is working to improve the likelihood of success for women’s businesses there by making recommendations to others who can support them. This includes state and local governments, as well as local organizations and businesses – all of whom play a role in fostering economic development activities for women in their community.

In the coming months, we will help women continue their business development and build toward launching their own businesses!

THANK YOU for your support of this vital work to create economic opportunities for impoverished Palestinian women and their families!

Women brainstorm business opportunities
Women brainstorm business opportunities
And share their ideas with other women
And share their ideas with other women
Jul 15, 2013

Over 200 Gum Arabic Producers Receive Support

What do soft drinks, cake mixes, mascara, fireworks, and watercolor paints have in common?  It is likely they all use gum arabic – an effective stabilizer harvested from the Acacia Senegal tree.  This natural substance has been collected from acacia trees since antiquity.

Sudan is one of the top producers of gum arabic in the world, and the production of this commodity is booming.  Smallholder farmers, however, often lack the skills and knowledge to fully benefit from this trade.  The Near East Foundation’s project in Sudan’s North Kordofan State has had considerable impact on gum arabic production and continues to expand to help more farmers better provide for their families and invest in their communities.

This year saw a significant increase in gum arabic production, as a result both of heavy rains last year and improved techniques by farmers. The project has helped farmers establish protected areas for Acacia Senegal trees.  As livestock is now kept out of these forests, the trees are able to grow fully – and farmers are able to harvest more gum.

The Near East Foundation is continuing to work with farmers to increase production even further. Over the past months, NEF has facilitated the distribution of seeds to 225 farmers in North Kordofan.  Each farmer received 1 pound of seeds—enough to cultivate 9 acres of land.  Acacia seedlings will be distributed at the end of July, at the height of the rainy season.

NEF is also providing a training to the Gum Arabic Producers Union in Umruwaba Locality in North Kordofan to support members in organizing, advocating for policy changes, marketing, and in managing the environment.  This institutional strengthening support was requested by the local union.  Over twenty union leaders (both male and female) have improved skills in leadership, gum production, and marketing – and will lead their communities to improved production and sales of gum arabic. 

Your support to vulnerable gum arabic farmers in North Kordofan-and the institutions that support them--helps to promote sustainable livelihoods in Sudan. Thank you! 

Jul 15, 2013

Nearly 30 Tons of Vegetables Produced

Food Security Improved in Rural Communities

An estimated 28.2 tons of vegetables have been produced in 2013 through NEF’s initiative to support smallholder farmers in Mali, where political instability, drought, and climate change have caused widespread hunger.

The combined monetary value of the crops is 7.05 million CFA francs (based on an average cost of 250 FCFA per kilogram on the local market).

This significant food production and cash income for farming families was made possible after NEF distributed—free of charge—1,775 kilograms of seeds in Mali this year and provided support through the growing process.

NEF has helped farmers in eight villages launch and operate market gardens where they sell a portion of their produce to meet community food needs and meet their own financial needs. Families eat the remaining portion of their produce at home.

Their new crops include potatoes, tomatoes, beets, cabbage, lettuce, and peppers. 

Overall, NEF’s market garden activities are contributing to a reduction in the exodus of young people and women from impoverished villages. We are also helping to improve household nutrition and to create a sustainable source of both food and income in rural areas.

In addition, NEF’s support is building the skills and capacity of participating farmers. In the past few months, we have organized seven group training sessions to share tools ranging from sustainable management of investments to good governance in farmers' organizations. Producers have also learned conservation strategies and ways to improve vegetable processing, including the use of drying techniques and storage boxes to better promote their products.

The villages in need where farmers are now producing vegetables with NEF support include: Bagui, Korientzé, N'Gorodia (rural town of Korombana), Dari, Deri (rural town of N'Diaptodji), Mounouwel, Kikara (rural town of Gandamia), and Gafity (rural town of Debere).

THANK YOU for supporting families in Mali as they recover from drought and occupation! YOU are improving their lives today and helping them build food security for the future!

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