Othman and Nitzan
Othman is an organic mushroom farmer from Lubban Village in the West Bank. “My business is to convert mushroom spores into mushroom seeds to make it easier for other farmers to plant and grow mushrooms,” Othman explained.
“Mushrooms are not common to the area. It is a challenge to increase the shelf life of the mushrooms, which is normally very short. I needed expertise on how to do this without using chemicals; my mushrooms are organic through and through.”
It was through the Planting the Future project that Othman was introduced to Nitzan, an Israeli woman who owns and operates an aqua/hydroponics facility (a method of growing plants in mineral nutrient solutions without soil) in Israel. “I’ve learned a lot from Nitzan’s technical experience—she has an advanced degree in agricultural sciences, and she has taught me many things.”
For Nitzan, being a part of the project provides her with an opportunity to share her knowledge on hydroponic farming with Palestinians, while also having the opportunity to connect with and learn from them. Nitzan said that when she first met Othman, his eagerness to learn was evident, “I saw the need. He asked all the right questions. When a connection is there, the work can easily get done.” She went on to say that “the small steps of working together on a joint-project gives me the assurance that there will be a mutual future.”
“There is great cooperation between us,” Othman said. “We have met several times during the project, and I have toured Nitzan’s hydroponic facility. We’ve gotten to know each other and become friends. Nitzan is very knowledgeable in agriculture, and I depend on her considerably.”
“It was good to see the willingness from the other side,” Nitzan said. “Instead of just talking, we should take action—these small steps will lead to a kind of momentum.”
One hundred and twenty Israeli and Palestinian youth participated in Planting the Future cross-border training workshops and field trips, 51 joint cross borders business plans have been submitted to NEF for funding, and 30 have launched.
Planting the Future is funded by the USAID, and in partnership with the Peres Center for Peace and the Palestinian Center for Agriculture Research and Development (PCARD).
Adi, an Israeli botanist, makes a living cultivating Black Soldier Fly larvae. This particular type of larvae consumes organic waste, helping to reduce it. After engorging themselves on the waste, the protein-rich larvae can be used as a very nutritional source of animal feed. “I am becoming an expert in making the larvae, and they [Palestinians] have a lot of problems with the build-up of organic waste.”
Adi wanted to share her expertise on how to cultivate the larvae with Palestinians because she thought that it would not only have a positive environmental influence and be a source for nutritional animal feed for farmers, but also help to create jobs.
“There are a lot of people who don’t have work [in the West Bank],” Adi said. “Cultivating the larvae creates an opportunity for many people to get work, help the environment, and to make money.”
Through the project, Adi met Salah, a Palestinian fish farmer, who was searching for a way to improve his product and increase his profits to provide a better life for his family.
Salah operates his fish farm near the village of Tubas in the West Bank. He explained that working together with Adi and the “other side” provided a “rare opportunity to improve his future and to learn from agricultural experts.” He went on to say, “The high protein content provided by the fly larvae will make the fish I cultivate more hardy and robust, which will hopefully positively affect my production and sales.”
The project organizes opportunities for Israelis and Palestinians to go on field visits in order to promote knowledge sharing. Salah said he enjoyed these learning opportunities the most out of all of the project activities: “The field visits and the techniques discussed during the lectures and the technologies we encountered were interesting—I learned how to better cultivate and sell fish.”
“I learned a great deal from the Israeli agricultural experts that NEF put us in touch with and I have benefitted a lot from Adi’s technical expertise,” concludes Salah.
Adi also felt that the field visits and trainings provided a unique opportunity. “The meetings were very interesting. The main thing [for me] was to have a chance to meet our neighbors, person-to-person…woman-to-woman…man-to-man.”
Adi went on to say, “The project gave us an opportunity to meet with them [Palestinians]. It can be risky to travel to Nablus, but when I go as a guest with Palestinians there is nothing to fear. We went to Nablus, and it was so interesting. All of my colleagues were really enthusiastic about it—we believe that people can connect, not politicians.” Adi adds,“I don’t want it to stop. I want it to continue and I want the connection to continue too.”
Salah hopes that his community sees how he is benefitting from his participation in the project saying, “Neither my family or friends have any problem with my participation in the project whatsoever. In fact, they’d love to participate in something like this too.”
There is no couch or television to furnish the lounge room of Hanane’s small home in Chtaura, in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley. Instead, two second-hand barbers’ chairs, mirrors and a few purposefully placed shelves have transformed the room into a modest version of the beauty salon the 27-year-old, mother of two, owned and managed in Damascus.
Resourceful and determined, Hanane, like many Syrian refugees, is the sole income earner for her family. But when she arrived in Lebanon she struggled, “I was depressed. I was devastated about losing my salon in Syria and didn’t feel I could start again.”
Participating in NEF’s livelihoods project gave Hanane the skills and confidence to return to work. Coupled with a start-up grant, opening a salon became a reality. “I started with a few clients, friends and neighbors, and then I put a sign in the dollar shop. I rely on word of mouth, and now I am known in the neighborhood as ‘Hanane, the Hairdresser’.”
A year after re-launching her salon, Hanane’s entrepreneurial spirit and business has grown. She attended an advanced business training course, received a business expansion grant, and has developed her concept to meet the needs of her clients. “I now offer my bridal customers a whole package. I can do their hair, makeup and nails and they can rent a dress with a veil, even a music speaker.”
Reflecting on her achievements, Hanane is satisfied, but still making plans. “My life is different. Everything has changed. I am generating an income for my family. Hopefully, I will be able to take up a shop and move the salon out of the house.”