Lebanon CSP Transforming Lives-Female-Led Cooperative Expands Sales to Big Outlets
FEMALE-LED COOPERATIVE IN NORTH LEBANON EXPANDS SALES TO BIG OUTLETS
Head of Agricultural Cooperative, Fadwa Zahraman, Takes a Step Closer towards the Cooperative’s Goal of Marketing Local Specialties to the Rest of Lebanon and to the World.
In North Lebanon’s Akkar region, three women are hard at work in a kiosk adorned in rich autumnal colors and bearing the Arabic words: Mounet al Kammoua, ‘Food Preserves of Kammoua’. They are selling home-made local specialties to hikers finishing a long day’s trek. The women come from a small village called Fnaideq, and are employed by the local agricultural cooperative. Located in the scenic Kammoua Valley, the area is a popular destination for national and international visitors looking to escape the hustle and bustle of overcrowded cities – but only few take the time to stop by the village itself, thereby providing limited economic benefits to the local community. To support the Fnaideq agricultural cooperative and its employees, USAID’s Community Support Program (CSP) donated the mobile kiosk which has allowed them to take their products to the people.
Fnaideq resident, Fadwa Zahraman, has been the driving force behind this business and is no stranger to adversity. After a car accident left one of her legs completely paralyzed, Fadwa had to continue supporting herself as well as her elderly mother on her own: “All the challenges I overcame made me stronger.” Fadwa has a history of taking initiative. From a young age she saw a problem that she was determined to fix: in the Lebanese countryside, young women can too easily be left behind. Fadwa wanted to enable women to use their skills and have access to new opportunities. In 2012, the town’s mayor took notice of her pioneering work and asked her to lead the local agricultural cooperative, which now employs over 30 people at a time, including seven women. “My dream is to introduce our 30 to 40 products to the rest of Lebanon and to the world,” Fadwa asserted. Determined to help her community through Lebanon’s ongoing economic crisis, Fadwa realized the need to upscale the community’s business model – assistance from CSP has enabled her to do just that.
Since starting its intervention in 2020, CSP provided members of the cooperative with specialized training on food hygiene, branding and marketing, social media management, financial management, and assisted the cooperative to develop market links with food wholesalers, Fair Trade Lebanon and Darb Akkar, which enabled the cooperative to expand its reach to an even wider market. Indeed, despite the ongoing nationwide socio-economic crisis, by September 2022 the cooperative had doubled its production of pomegranate molasses from 30 to 60 tons per year and had started exporting some of its products to the UAE, Europe and the United States. In order to fulfil this rapidly growing demand, CSP also facilitated the signing of a cooperation contract with neighboring Jdaidet el Qaitaa female cooperative, whereby the latter is supporting by producing additional pomegranate molasses according to the standardized recipe set by Fniaideq co-op to ensure the same quality and taste. This successful collaboration generated more than $20,000 in profits and expanded economic opportunities for both communities.
“I believe that anything
can be done, and every problem can be overcome if you have the will and the drive.” Fadwa Zahraman, Head of Fnaideq Cooperative