Tending to the new thyme crop
Impoverished families in the villages of Nassareyyeh, Aqrabaneyyeh, Bathan, and Fara’ah in the Jordan Valley continue to improve their livelihoods through the cultivation of thyme, an important traditional herb that is used widely across the region.
Over the past six months, 40 Palestinian women have successfully started their own thyme gardens, working in close partnership with the Near East Foundation, local women’s organizations, and the Palestinian Center for Agricultural Research and Development.
During the first and second trimmings, the women took in an average of approximately $150.00 each from nearly 19 kilograms of thyme, sold either fresh or dried.
The new income opportunities created by the project are helping to eliminate poverty for participating women and their families. Having a productive home garden allows women to take care of their large families while also contributing to the family income.
With the first harvest for market expected in October, the women must first survive a major challenge to their crop: the annual dry season. Before the dry season began, each of the women received training from the NEF project team on how to help their crops endure through the dry season, when precipitation decreases and crops become vulnerable to drought.
With help from NEF and its partners, half of the women planted their seedlings in rows and installed drip irrigation pipes. The other women received guidance on how to plant their seedlings in basins and irrigate their crop by water hose or pitcher.
For many of the women, this is the first time they have grown thyme or had sole responsibility for a crop. Through the duration of the growing cycle, the NEF project team will continue to visit the women in their fields and support them with training in key areas – such as irrigation.
During one recent training session, women learned harvesting, storing, and marketing skills, which they will utilize with their first yield in the fall. These new skills included a technique to cut from the top of the plant in order to stop vertical growing and allow horizontal growing. Over time, this technique leads to an increase in total production – and a corresponding increases in profits.
Production from the thyme crop is expected to continue for the next 4-5 years as a sustainable source of income for these entrepreneurial women and their families.
Two of the 40 women participating in the project
First thyme crop