In 2012, 40 Palestinian women have successfully established market gardens after receiving supplies and training from the Near East Foundation (NEF). Each of the women is the sole income provider for her family. This project is helping the women launch their own businesses growing thyme, an herb traditionally used in the Palestinian Territories and surrounding region, to create a sustainable source of income that will both improve life for families and help stimulate the local economy.
The project will impact an increasing number of women as the 40 participants share their new knowledge and skills with others.
After the distribution of thyme seedlings in January 2012, NEF experts conducted field visits and training sessions for the 40 women who live in four villages in the Jordan Valley. During the first field visit in January, the NEF team monitored the newly planted farms for quality assurance in such areas as appropriate distance between plants and proper watering conditions.
In April, the 40 participating women harvested their first thyme crop. Because the herbs are newly-planted and not yet matured, the small yield of this first cut will be used for home cooking, dried for tea, and stored for medicinal purposes.
In four or five months, the women will harvest again. Their plants will have taken root and matured, and the larger yield will be sold at the local market, providing the women with the first monetary profit from their gardens.
One of the women participating in the project is Im Adel. She is from the village of Nassariyeh and has four children living at home. Although she has spent most of her life as a farmer on her family olive and cucumber farm, her thyme garden is her first self-run and self-owned project. Im Adel wakes at 3 a.m. daily to pray, prepare breakfast for the children, and feed the sheep - all before she leaves to tend her flourishing thyme garden. When asked how she feels abour her growing seedlings she replied, "I'm glad because I am the one who planted them, the one who cares for them. I watch them grow - they are like my children."
After attending the training session on how to properly trim seedlings, Im Adel was skeptical of the new techniques. But she quickly saw the results of following the NEF training methods, and has since shared her new knowledge with other women in the village.
Amneh, also from Nassariyeh, is raising her brother's children by herself. As the first harvest for market sale approaches, Amneh is planning to use the money she earns to buy school supplies and toys for her nephews.
The women will continue to advance their knowledge in horticulture and agriculture through an NEF agreement with the Palestinian Center for Agricultural Research and Development, which will lead ongoing trainings for the women.