Our partners at Zenab for Women in Development recently shared with us that the women of Women Farmers Unite are working hard to obtain oil mill machinery in order to process their sesame seed and groundnut crops. Oil is extracted from sesame seeds and groundnuts by mechanical pressing, and is a lucrative product in local markets. Obtaining oil mill machinery for these women farmers will offer increased income-generating activity and self-employment. Rather than packing seed crops and transporting them to and from the city for mechanical pressing, the women farmers will be able to save time, money and energy, and maximize their profit, by eliminating third party oil millers. We look forward to bringing you more updates once the oil mill machinery is in use!
October 16 was World Food Day. This year’s focus was on agricultural cooperatives—powerful examples of active, life-changing community engagement.
Worldwide, women and girls are primarily responsible for feeding their families. Women are disproportionately, overwhelmingly impacted by the expanding global crisis of poverty. Climate change exacerbates food insecurity, causing droughts one year and floods the next, and forces people from their homes. These conditions all exacerbate poverty—and again, disproportionately impact women.
MADRE advocates for food sovereignty, meaning that every person has not only the right to food, but the right to choose what food we eat and an understanding of where that food comes from and how it is produced.
Women Farmers Unite, our partners in Sudan whose work to promote food sovereignty allows them to feed their families and support one another through the many challenges they face, are an inspiring example of the power of agricultural cooperatives. By embracing sustainable farming practices, women and their families have the opportunity to support themselves for generations.
Unlike emergency food aid, Women Farmers Unite gives women the tools, resources and technical assistance they need to sustain their families for the long haul. With our Sudanese partner organization Zenab for Women in Development, we provide women farmers with organic seeds and supplies, including plows and a tractor. A special focus on young women helps ensure their generation continues to provide a local, sustainable food supply.
Women gain the resources they need to grow and produce food, alleviating hunger, improving health and nutrition, and fueling local economies. By working together to grow crops, participants build a network of women farmers who share resources and boost their economic status. Elder women transmit skills and lessons to younger women. Many participants are using their increased incomes to pay for their daughters’ educations, breaking the cycle of poverty and increasing the chances for further political, economic and social empowerment.
Just yesterday, Fatima Ahmed, the director of Zenab for Women in Development, our sister organization in Sudan, came to MADRE to share some exciting updates from the Women Farmers Union. And we’d like to share them with you!
The Women Farmers Union, the first of its kind in Sudan, started working with 300 women farmers in six communities in Eastern Sudan. Today, it unites over 3,000 women farmers from over 50 communities—and it continues to expand! By providing seeds, tools and resources, Zenab supports these women so that they can grow the food their families need to survive.
Last year, we were excited to announce that the Women Farmers Union had purchased their first tractor. Not only did the tractor save time and labor, it improved the chances of a good harvest.
With so many women farmers and just one tractor, it was hard to meet the need. But just recently, Zenab was able to purchase a second tractor as well as a new disk to help with planting! Already, these new tools helped 1,000 women clean, plow and prepare their fields for a successful harvest. The women are thrilled to have a second tractor!
Fatima also shared with us that in June, Zenab organized a forum where over 500 women farmers attended. She told us how the women farmers were able to discuss their needs as well as provide recommendations for the Union.
One of the biggest challenges the women farmers face is unpredictable weather patterns created by climate change. Last year, the women struggled through persistent drought. This year, excessive rain has triggered floods that threaten their harvests and that spread disease through communities. The members of the Women Farmers Union share strategies to deal with the flooding, like planting trees as a natural barrier to protect farmland.
We thank Fatima so much for visiting MADRE and for sharing these exciting updates and accomplishments from the women farmers. We can’t wait for her next visit!
We recently had the pleasure of hosting our partner Fatima Ahmed, the head of our sister organization in Sudan, Zenab for Women in Development. During her visit, Fatima talked to us about Zenab’s remarkable achievements over the past year—and we’d like to share some of her updates with you!
Zenab empowers women farmers to fight for resources usually reserved for men. Through our partners, MADRE provides them with what they need to grow food for their families. Last year, Zenab provided women farmers with the seeds, tools and training to increase their harvest, which benefitted nearly 3,000 women in 53 communities throughout Eastern Sudan. Its profits were immediately put to use to combat poverty and hunger, drastically improving community health and nutrition.
For example, one of Zenab’s cooperatives used the harvest’s profits to build a well, a vital addition to the community. It provided families with access to crucial supplies of clean water, and spared countless women the grueling, hours-long journey to fetch clean water.
Fatima also informed us that Zenab launched a successful micro-financing loan service, enabling hundreds of women to rent land and sell their crops. Many women are using these profits to send their children to school.
One local woman farmer, Atoma, started with Zenab. As a result of Zenab’s micro-lending and support, as Fatima said, Atoma “no longer needs our help!”
But in spite of Zenab’s many accomplishments, Fatima is always brainstorming ways to move forward. Next year, she aims to introduce new crops, better seeds, improved tools and new production techniques to increase their harvest. She is confident that women will use these profits to pay for their daughters’ educations—breaking the cycle of poverty and increasing their chances for further political, economic and social empowerment.
Sudanese women farmers hold the key to the future of their communities. For centuries, they have harvested and cultivated the food their families need to survive. And now, thanks to Fatima and Zenab’s dedication, they have never had a stronger voice. We thank Fatima for her visit—and can’t wait to hear what news she brings next!
Zenab for Women in Development
Women Farmers Unite
In Sudan, the majority of women farmers must prepare their land for the harvest—by hand. This work is extremely time-consuming and physically demanding. In some cases, it can take one woman several days to prepare just a small plot of land.
Zenab for Women in Development is working to increase crop production for women farmers, while conserving natural resources and empowering them to win access to tools, credit and training opportunities usually reserved for men.
With MADRE support, Zenab’s Women Farmers Union recently purchased a tractor! Work that once took them several days by hand now takes hours with the help of the tractor, which the many union members share.
The new tractor has made a significant impact on agricultural production. Approximately 20 communities have benefited from it, and in certain areas, the tractor has generated a near three-fold increase in harvest. Nearly 3,000 women farmers in 53 communities and villages in Eastern Sudan benefited from Zenab’s harvest last year.
Check out photos of our partners with the new tractor below:
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