Increasing access to clean water in Sudan

group photo at NEF  water point

As the Sudanese people return home, they find conditions much worse than when they left. To make matters worse, an influx of internally displaced people (IDPs) in communities across Sudan has placed a drain on the already overstretched resources available.

Basic infrastructure—most notably water and sanitation infrastructure—has either been destroyed or the existing infrastructure has suffered from a lack of maintenance because of inaccessibility due to the conflict. A lack of parts, tools, and trained mechanics, as well as actual damage from rebel activities, has put many hand pumps out of order, or destroyed them completely, and severely reduced the amount of water available to both the local community, including the returnees, and the IDP population. At the same time, a serious lack of latrines and hygiene puts communities at high risk of water borne disease.

To respond to this crisis, NEF’s teams in South Kordofan and Central Darfur are helping to reduce the risk of morbidity and mortality of nearly 100,000 people by improving their access to clean water, and education on hygiene and sanitation best practices. Working within local communities, NEF has mobilized Water and Sanitation Committees (WSCs) and Subcommittees across seven village clusters (Abassiya, Rashad, Abu Karshola, Um Dukhun, Nertiti, Golo, and Rokero). WSCs are trained on best approaches to sanitation and hygiene, and on how to identify and prioritize infrastructure improvements—from water pumps to latrines. To further ensure the sustainability of the project, NEF helps to train and employ local craftspeople and artisans to manufacture and/or rehabilitate water pumps and latrines throughout the villages.

Asmaa Dawood_WASH-SKS

Asmaa Dawood, one of the Sudanese women who attended the hand pump mechanics training, was impressed by the value of what she learned. She also commented that this was the first time women in her village were included in such a training.

“We have benefitted a lot from this training. We received knowledge on hand pump mechanics so that we— including women—can respond when hand pumps are broken. We are really thankful to NEF for the good service that has been delivered to our community!”

As of last month, NEF has helped identify 1,720 beneficiaries to receive new latrines, and 85 artisans to help construct them—more than 50 percent have been completed. Furthermore, the WSCs have distributed 1,500 hygiene kits, which include hygiene and sanitation education materials. These efforts have so far benefitted over 50,000 people.

NEF’s water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) work in Sudan is funded and supported by USAID’s Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA).

Hygeine kit distribution in Golo
Hygeine kit distribution in Golo.
Local artisans at work fabricating latrine slabs
Local artisans at work fabricating latrine slabs.
Hygeine and sanitation education for school children
Hygeine and sanitation education for school children.

Addressing the long-term impact of the refugee crisis

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As conflict in Syria and Iraq displaces thousands, NEF continues to address the protracted refugee crisis in Jordan and Lebanon. Humanitarian aid remains largely focused on immediate and short-term needs, providing little to no support for the long-term impact this crisis will have on affected communities.

With an eye toward the future, NEF is providing solutions that will support both the displaced and affected host communities through inclusive opportunities that enable conflict-affected individuals to earn a living and build resilience against future shocks. In practice, this includes strengthening the capacity of both refugee and host communities to recover from crisis and emerge from poverty through business and economic development, employability training, vocational training, financial literacy and financial/start-up assistance, social networking, and on-going mentoring and coaching for new entrepreneurs. As both women and youth are known to be the most vulnerable during times of conflict, NEF’s work in both Jordan and Lebanon has a focus on adolescents and women headed households.

NEF partners with local civil society organizations (CSOs) to provide these and other services at hubs known as Siraj Centers. In Arabic, the word “Siraj” means lantern—with the connotation of a beacon of light and hope. The aptly named centers offer individuals a safe environment to receive training, information, guidance, and coordinated referrals to other service providers.

NEF in Jordan

Strengthening economic and social resilience
Recent activities in Jordan include multiple four-day business development trainings for 455 participants in four areas of Jordan—South Amman, East Amman, Irbid, and Zarqa. A total of 64 workshops have been held in these four locations since March of 2017. The goal of these trainings is to support business creation and income generation, which will positively contribute to the local economy.

Capacity Building
To establish a sustainable framework for continued livelihoods efforts supported by the local community, NEF held an “Ideation and Innovation” workshop to establish a network of local “Master Trainers.” In May, 24 Master Trainers (of Jordanian, Iraqi, and Syrian nationalities) received the necessary training to train others on how to transform their ideas into tangible businesses, perform strategic planning, implement best business practices, and monitor their business’ progress.

Youth Training
Limited opportunities, isolation, and tension contribute to a sense of despair and hopelessness among  refugees and poor Jordanians. To address this, NEF trained 334 adolescents (52 Iraqis, 79 Jordanians, and 203 Syrians) in financial literacy tailored toward supporting self-development through financial management skills. The training sessions also strive to contribute to social interaction and harmony between Jordanians and Iraqi and Syrian refugees, thereby promoting mutual respect and social cohesion. 

To date NEF’s efforts in Jordan have directly benefited 7,960 refugees and Jordanians and indirectly benefitted the lives of 39,800.

Last month, a bazaar was held in Zarqa where project participants had the opportunity to display and sell their products.


NEF in Lebanon

Strengthening economic and social resilience
NEF and its partners have conducted 43 business development trainings for over 1000 Lebanese and Syrian men and women. Additional training sessions covering life skills such as household budgeting and savings were also provided. 209 grant recipients have commenced business operations, either through providing services or selling products.

Vocational Training
Over 370 Lebanese and Syrians received vocational training (300 women, 70 men) related to the type of business plan they had selected. Vocational training topics spanned such industries as food production, tailoring, hairdressing, aesthetics and make-up, book keeping, handicrafts. 

Capacity Building
NEF has helped to increase the capacity of 34 civil society organizations (CSOs) to provide high quality and expanded services. Staff members from each CSO are now able to conduct business development trainings, business coaching, business networking, as well as financial literacy training for adolescents. Additionally, CSO’s have improved their ability to respond to protection incidents and provide appropriate referrals. In May, NEF met with CSO staff members and volunteers to significantly improve and systemize the process of participant data collection and monitoring participant’s progress—this effort will make it possible for NEF and its partners determine the success rate of these services, and make adjustments for improvements as needed.

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Khayriye (top right photo) was one of the first few women trained in the Minieh center. She has now purchased a sewing machine and completed a six-day vocational training on tailoring. Khayriye thanked NEF and Hadatha saying, “This project was a great opportunity for me.”

To date, NEF’s efforts in Lebanon have directly benefited 3,050 refugees and Lebanese and indirectly benefitted the lives of 12,200.

NEF’s work with displaced and host communities in Jordan and Lebanon is funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development’ Bureau of Populations, Refugees, and Migration (PRM), the Dodge Foundation, and City & Guilds Group.


Young Entrepreneurs Compete for DreamUp Grants in Morocco

Chaimaa Radi_20_Cosmetics

On Saturday, May 20th, Moroccan youth looking to expand or start a new business will compete for small business grants in the Machrou3i DreamUp competition. The competition is organized by the Machrou3i Business Incubators, created through the Near East Foundation’s (NEF) Empowering Youth through Entrepreneurship in Morocco (EYEM) project funded by the U.S. Department of State’s Middle East Partnership Initiative (MEPI).

Youth in the competition have participated in training and coaching events organized by the Machrou3i incubators to develop their business plans. In the final competition, eight youth will have the opportunity launch their plans with the help of a $2000 project grant, along with ongoing mentoring and coaching through the incubators. Selections will be made by a committee based on a number of criteria including the level of innovation presented in the business concept, the ability of the business to introduce new technologies, well-defined social or environmental benefits, and the ability of the business to eventually create new jobs. 

The DreamUp competition is complemented by a showcase event featuring youth entrepreneurs and businesses launched through the EYEM project.  Organized in partnership Province of El Jadida National Initiative for Human Development, the showcase event in El Jadida (May 19-21, 2017) allows young entrepreneurs to present their products and services to potential customers as well as network with fellow business owners. 

Both events aim to promote the spirit of entrepreneurship and innovation among young people in Morocco and to inform young people on the advantages of business incubators and their role in regional youth economic development.

The EYEM project has reached more than 3000 youth in its efforts to promote the spirit of entrepreneurship, provided business development training to more than 349 young people, and funded 251 new businesses with start up assistance.


Key stakeholders meet to discuss GBV issues in Armenia

IMG_0687 copyNEF UK and GCCI gather key stakeholders to discuss the important role they play in protecting against gender-based violence and advancing gender equality and the rights of survivors of gender-based violence in Armenia

NEF UK and the Gegharkunik Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GCCI) organized a special event that included a presentation and exhibition on Advancing Gender Equality and the Rights of Survivors of Gender-Based Violence in Armenia, a project financed by the European Union and implemented by NEF UK and GCCI.

The event, held on January 18 2017 at the Double Tree Hilton Hotel in Yerevan from 14:00 to 18:00, provided an opportunity to explore the role of Armenian civil society organizations, private sector organizations, and government agencies in promoting women’s rights and gender equality among vulnerable groups of women through the delivery of economic development programs.

Ms. Line Urban, a representative from the European Union (EU) delegation to Armenia, gave opening remarks at the event where she emphasized the important role the program has played in advocating for gender equality in Armenia. NEF UK and GCCI highlighted the impact of the EU-supported project and showcased an exhibition of project beneficiary business products and services. Attendees were also able to hear directly from beneficiaries who shared the successes they have achieved through the project.

The event helped attendees to identify the primary causes of gender-based violence in Armenia, what role they can play in the prevention of gender-based violence, and how their organizations can help support the economic stability of survivors in the future. The key findings of the three working groups (government agencies, civil society organizations, and victims of gender-based violence) were shared and discussed among participants at the end of the event.

The project is being implemented in Yerevan, Syunik, and Lori regions in partnership with the Women’s Support Centre, Women’s Resource Centre, Goris Women’s Development Resource Centre Foundation, and Spitak Helsinki Group.

Since its launch in January 2015, the two-year project has helped 230 survivors of gender-based violence gain increased employability, small business skills, and establish small businesses. Seventy women received vocational training in various specializations, 130 received financial support to start their small businesses, 80 developed career development plans, and 50 women found employment in the labour market.

The project has helped build a commitment toward preventing gender-based violence and promoting gender equality among community leaders and employers. The partner community organizations have strengthened their cooperation and signed agreements with regional agencies in Armenia, aiming to create referral mechanisms for victims of gender-based violence.

Although the project ends on January 20 2017, NEF UK and its partners hope to find opportunities to continue this work, as it is highly impactful and required. Project’s learning, lessons and recommendations will be presented at an event in Yerevan in March 2017.

Marine’s story: How I made a profession out of my passion.

MarineMy name is Marine*.  I am 41-year-old and a mother of seven. Six years ago, my husband and I divorced due to psychological and physical abuse that I endured for many years. As a recently divorced, vulnerable, unemployed single-mother, I was unable to provide for my family. The years of abuse made me very weak, scared, and overwhelmed. I lost my house, my children left, and my way of life as I knew it disappeared.

One year ago, I came across the AGERS (Advancing Gender Equality and the Rights of Survivors) program through the Spitak Helsinki Group NGO—an opportunity that marked a turning point in my life.

Prior to joining the program I didn’t have a profession, but had always enjoyed making handicrafts, baking, and above all being a good mother to my children. I knew that to get my children back, and to be the mother they needed, I would have to get a steady job.

With that aim in mind, I attended both the business development and job development courses that the program offered, along with one month of vocational training, which helped me improve my baking skills.

The courses equipped me with the confidence and skills I needed to turn my passion for baking into a profession. I soon was able to develop a business plan and present it to the project committee. I was shocked that my business plan was chosen and selected for funding, and more so, that I was qualified to start and run a small business!

It has now been seven months since I started to market and sell my homemade baked goods in the Lori region. When I first started, I was baking cakes for neighbors and providing samples for tasting in an effort to increase my customer base. Once they started to gain popularity, I decided to deliver my baked goods to the local store to be sold—they sold out in one hour! Because of how popular my goods were becoming in the community, I was hired as a saleswoman in a local bakery. There I sell my own pastry and meat products, and plan to start producing lavash (Armenian bread).

I now earn enough of an income to support my children and myself. Getting back on my feet has helped me to rebuild a relationship with my children—all seven of them are again living with me. Some of my children, who are now in college, are even willing to help me improve my business based on what they are learning in their courses.

Today, instead of dwelling on the difficulties I have experienced in my life, I focus on the successes I have achieved. One day, I would like to open my own shop. My life has been changed dramatically since I participated in the project, and I plan to pay it forward by helping other women.

The AGERS project is finance by the European Union and implemented by the NEF UK and the Gegharkunik Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

Since its launch in January 2015, the two-year project has helped 230 survivors of gender-based violence gain increased employability, small business skills, and establish small businesses. Seventy women received vocational training in various specializations, 130 received financial support to start their small businesses, 80 developed career development plans, and 50 women found employment in the labor market.   

“The project has improved confidence and self-reliance among survivors of gender-based violence, providing women with safe options when making decisions that affect their family’s lives,” Arpine Baghdoyan, NEF’s country director in Armenia, explained.

Although the project ended on January 20 2017, NEF and its partners hope to find opportunities to continue this important and necessary work in the region.

*Names have been changed to protect the identity of the women.


Anna: From Baker to Bistro Owner









Anna*, a survivor of gender-based violence, recently registered her business—a bistro—in Armenia’s capital city, Yerevan.

Prior to joining the NEF’s Advancing Gender Equality and the Rights of Survivors of Gender-Based Violence in Armenia (AGERS) project—financed by the European Union and implemented by NEF UK and GCCI—Anna worked as a talented baker at a local establishment for many years. Each day, she did her best to earn money for her boss, ensuring only the best, handmade products made it onto the bakery’s shelves. Though she enjoyed her work, the low salary and long hours she worked at the bakery made her question whether she would do better to start her own business. Anna toyed with the idea for more than three years, but without start-up capital the likelihood that she could try and succeed at launching her own business seemed dim.

Anna learned about the AGERS project in June 2015, and was selected to participate in enterprise-track trainings one month later. Over the course of the two-week class, she gradually came to realize that she could achieve her dream of opening a bistro with the support of NEF UK and Gegharkunik Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GCCI).

Through the project, Anna learned that her business model was high risk, and to be successful she would need to anticipate common challenges faced by restaurants and plan ahead to avoid them or minimise their impact. The project team helped Anna to register her business, conduct risk assessments, negotiate a rental space, and understand tax law. She used the small grant she was awarded through the project to stock her restaurant with tools and ingredients.

To limit costs, Anna recruited her son Vardan* to contribute to the management of the bistro. Vardan had always struggled with health issues, but continued to work odd labor-intensive jobs to care for the family out of necessity. For Vardan, the bistro presented a welcome alternative to his then-physically-demanding line of work. Working together, Anna could focus on production while Vardan focused on advertising, sourcing fresh produce, and managing delivery logistics.

Two months after receiving her grant, Anna earned enough of a profit to cover the restaurant’s costs. With business on the rise, her self-confidence continues to increase by leaps and bounds. 

“My business is slowly growing” Anna says, “it is my own business. I alone am responsible for both profits and losses. I am happy to have my son’s support. Thanks to the project, I gained the know-how, equipment, and materials to overcome my fear of failure and become an entrepreneur.”

Since its launch in January 2015, the two-year project has helped 230 survivors of gender-based violence gain increased employability, small business skills, and establish small businesses. Seventy women received vocational training in various specializations, 130 received financial support to start their small businesses, 80 developed career development plans, and 50 women found employment in the labor market.


*Names have been changed to protect the beneficiary’s identity.


Survivors of Gender-Based Violence Overcome the Odds

Women in Armenia gather to bring awareness to gender-based violence (picture credit to the Global Fund for Women).

In Armenia, 69 percent of women report being physically assaulted by an intimate partner—often in front of their children—at least once in their lives. With conservative gendered norms embedded in the culture at home and in the community, women’s role in the economy is severely restricted—posing barriers to social and economic change for women in Armenia. To address this systemic issue, women’s fundamental human rights need to be better protected and advocated for.

The Near East Foundation (NEF) implemented an initiative, in partnership with the Gegharkunik Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GCCI) and funded by the European Union, to help 200 survivors of gender-based violence (GBV) enhance their employability and small business skills. The Advancing Gender Equality and the Rights of Survivors of Gender-based Violence (AGERS) project provides vocational training and business and financial support so that these women can become economically independent and meet their needs with dignity.

This initiative, only half way through its cycle, has already seen tremendous success as 90 percent of GBV survivors who have participated in the program have reported improved self-reliance and economic independence.

Nune, a young woman who was emotionally and physically abused by her family for many years, tolerated this violence as a means to protect her family as she was financially dependent on her husband. Searching for a safe way out, she sought help from a local community organization—the Women’s Resource Center (WRC) in Yerevan.

In addition to directly helping women through this program, NEF is also working with local community organizations, like the WRC, who already work with GBV survivors. NEF helps these organizations improve their capacity to deliver effective economic development programs that are supportive of gender equality, protective against GBV, and help to better engage the public, and civil society as a whole in joint action, dialogue, and training around normal, safe workplaces, and protection strategies.

Nune sat down with WRC to discuss her situation and aspirations, which included finding a way to utilize her sewing skills, and they recommended that she enroll in NEF’s AGERS’s business development stream. The trainings helped her to build self-confidence and learn how to develop a profitable business plan for a tailoring business. Impressed by her ambition and comprehensive plan, the project team awarded Nune a grant so that she could purchase a sewing machine and other materials she needed to start and run her business.

Now separated from her husband, Nune lives with her parents. She makes women’s clothes and sells them from home and in different stores in Yerevan. With the success her business has seen, Nune now makes enough of a profit to take care of herself and her family. To continue to grow her business, Nune is negotiating contracts with other stores in Yerevan and other nearby cities in Armenia.

Another woman, Hasmik, had a small child so took a big risk leaving her husband after enduring an abusive relationship. Without a means to support her child, Hasmik moved in with her parents and immediately contacted the WRC for help, who then referred her to NEF’s program.

Through attending NEF’s trainings, Hasmik became more confident in herself, her abilities, and her potential to succeed independently. With the support of an employability trainer Hasmik developed a CV, a career development plan, and learned how to interview for jobs. The project also helped her prepare for job screening and apply to a number of jobs relevant to her skill-set and background. After circulating her resume to employers in Yerevan and the other regions, Hasmik was soon offered a job in a food factory as a quality manager where she is now able to make enough to cover her rent and provide for her family without depending on anyone else.

The AGERS program has so far helped 98 women develop comprehensive business plans and 91 women develop career plans and CVs. Thirty-three women have received certificates for successful completion of accredited vocational training curricula, and 80 women have received small grants to cover start-up and vocational training expenses.

Women’s entrepreneurship is the theme for this short film about NEF’s project helping victims of gender-based violence to gain entrepreneurship skills.

Improving Access to clean water in Sudan


Despite being one of the most difficult places in the world to operate as an NGO, NEF has been working in Sudan for over thirty years. As one of the few continuously operating NGOs in the country, NEF is seeing much needed progress in Sudan and making important contributions in some of the most challenging areas.

Sudan’s South Kordofan and Darfur regions have seen ongoing conflict and disruption, resulting in more than three million people who are considered internally displaced. Families have had to flee their homes due to conflict and violence, with devastating consequences for both their health and livelihoods as well as for the local populations in the areas where they have resettled. This has manifested in heightened food insecurity, inadequate access to clean water, deteriorating sanitation and hygiene conditions, and diminished opportunities for sustainable livelihoods.

NEF is working to improve hygiene, sanitation, and the water supply conditions in three clusters in South Kordofan and 12 clusters in Central Darfur. Its work there focuses on the health and well being of conflict-affected people by improving access to potable water and adequate sanitation and hygiene.

NEF is similarly working with local organizations to increase their technical and management capacity to improve access to water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) as well as increase their ability to address management of their natural resources. By improving the effectiveness of these civil society organizations in the region, it allows them to access, prioritize, communicate, and coordinate local needs of vulnerable groups with regard to WASH and natural resource management.

As a result of a trainer of trainers workshop on WASH and natural resource management in August 2016 in Rongataz, Azoum Locality, a group of four young men who live in an internally displaced persons (IDP) camp submitted a complete project proposal to NEF’s partners at the Sudanese Organisation for Humanitarian Assistance (SOHA) related to WASH and health promotion in their area.

“We live in an IDP camp and we have seen how people suffer from the lack of latrines in their homes, and how this issue has led to so many problems related to people’s health, such the prevalence of diarrhea and other hygiene related diseases,” one of the applicants stated. “So we prepared this proposal. Thank God this project and workshop came at the right time, addressing our exact need to solve one of the biggest problems that we are suffering from.”

The training workshop team received the proposal so that it can be reviewed and assessed; after which, SOHA will respond to the group.

“I have benefited a lot from this workshop and it has inspired me to work hard in our area to try to solve the problem, by conveying what I have learned in this workshop to the community to raise their awareness, especially in the IDP camps,” said another participant.

To facilitate the peaceful sharing of natural resources among ethnically diverse communities in the region, NEF has introduced new tools—such as “supra-village” associations (representative organizations to manage local resources), local conventions, and land use management plans. These tools help communities work to share much needed resources more effectively and promote inclusive and collaborative economic development. This work leverages a collaborative approach with targeted communities to complete village surveys and asset-mapping, in preparation for training and capacity building exercises in each community.

DSC_0407NEF also promotes peaceful and participatory economic recovery among internally displaced, returnees, and vulnerable populations in Sudan through microenterprise development and income-generating activities. In South Kordofan, non-wood forest products and natural resource management development focused on women has the potential to increase women’s income by 40 to 100 percent, improve climate-resilient food systems, and promote gender equality. NEF is working with women in South Kordofan to develop women’s cooperative associations that support women’s involvement in the cultivation and economic benefit of forest products such as gum Arabic and honey. In the first few months since the project has launched, NEF has organized nearly 500 people around these activities, over 80 percent of them women.

NEF’s work in Sudan is funded by the United States Agency for International Development’s Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA), EuropeAID, and Comic Relief.

The U. S. Agency for International Development administers the U.S. foreign assistance program providing economic and humanitarian assistance in more than 80 countries worldwide.

To read more about NEF’s work in Sudan, click here.


Communties in the Sahel adapt to climate change

In the unpredictable environment of the Sahel, Malian and Senegalese communities are facing increasingly critical challenges due to recurring climate extremes—including droughts and flooding. The impact that this has had on crops and livestock affects food production and security, not only for farmers and herders, but also for the wider population. Food security and economic growth in the region highly depend on adapting to and building resilience against climate change.

This past July, a village in the Kaffrine region of Senegal flooded over the course of three days of rain. Two-thirds of the population was affected. Homes and stocks of grain and millet were destroyed. To make matters worse, the flooding hit the village during the lean season—a time when farmers and villagers rely on their grain stock to feed their families and livestock until the next harvest.

Local leaders were aware of the likelihood of flooding during the rainy season so they built cereal banks to store and protect grain with Climate Adaptation Funds (CAFs). Aby Drame, a country engagement leader for the Building Resilience to Climate Extremes and Disasters (BRACED) project, spoke with the leader of the Decentralizing Climate Funds (DCF) project in Kaffrine who said that after the flooding, “The cereal banks construction project met the high demand in the area [for millet].”

International climate finance is becoming increasingly available to assist developing countries in mitigating the impact of climate change. However, international funding for climate adaptation is currently primarily channeled to national authorities, and communities have very little control over how this money is used.

As a part of its Decentralizing Climate Funds (DCF) project, the Near East Foundation and its partners—IIED and IED Afrique—are piloting an initiative to help local governments in Mali and Senegal access and manage climate adaptation funds so that they can finance community-prioritized, public good investments to build resilience to climate change. The project teams are establishing adaptation committees within local government institutions to better coordinate decisions on which investments should be funded and where. This process will test the evidence that local control can and does work while encouraging national policymakers to take local adaptation strategies into account when formulating development policy. 


Decentralizing Climate Funds in Mali and Senegal from Near East Foundation on Vimeo.

Through this community-driven participatory process, 3 million GBP will be allocated toward project proposals for investments. Once submitted, the proposed investment is vetted for feasibility and to ensure that they reflect the development priorities established by the local communes. Investments include projects to develop cereal banks, upgrade market gardens to help women improve their garden yields, update wells and water points, and reforestation efforts. So far, through the DCF project, 47 investments in Mali and 22 in Senegal have been approved and are underway.

In recent months, the NEF-led DCF project team signed a cooperative agreement with the National Agency of Territorial Communities (ANICT) in Mali. Through this agreement, the DCF project will support ANICT as it completes the  accreditation process needed to draw down on financing available through the UN’s Green Climate Fund. The accreditation provides an opportunity to develop the capacities of national-level authorities in Mali in how they manage issues related to climate change at the local level.

To initiate the accreditation process and bring awareness about climate adaption funds and how to access them, the Ministry of Environment and the Ministry of Decentralization in Mali held a high-level launch event on October 4th.

There, Ms. Keita Aida M’Bo, Minister of the Environment, Sanitation, and Sustainability in Mali, said that “the fund offers a great opportunity for poor and vulnerable countries to cope with the new global challenges of climate change.”

Next month, NEF-Mali’s Country Director, Yacouba Dème, will attend the COP22 in Marrakech, Morocco—a two-day event that brings business, government, finance, and civil society actors together to generate innovation and action in stewarding the emergence of the green economy. There, NEF and its partners will have the opportunity to take part in the global conversation surrounding climate change, and more specifically, attest to the importance of empowering local communities to adapt and build resilience to its adverse effects.

For more information about this project and NEF’s work in Mali, click here.


Young Moroccans Launch New Businesses

Group picture EYEM

Yasmina Zaze, a 20-year-old woman, from Safi was born deaf. Due to her challenges and a lack of support from her school, Yasmina had to leave at the end of her primary education. Determined not to let her disability limit her, Yasmina pursued professional training as a beautician and gained experience in the field. In spite of this she was unable to find a job and earn an income of her own—leaving her completely reliant on her parents.

With more than 50 percent of Morocco’s working-age population out of school and out of work, youth unemployment is an increasingly serious concern. Micro and small enterprises play a central role in Morocco’s economy accounting for nearly 94 percent of existing businesses. However, with most of the young employed having a secondary education or less, youth face a number of challenges including: the absence of a strong entrepreneurial culture, access to credit, lack of access to networks, and a lack of personalized coaching and support.

The Near East Foundation (NEF) is addressing this gap by empowering youth through training in entrepreneurship, support through business incubators, and start-up grants to give young professionals in Morocco the tools they need to turn their ideas into viable businesses.

Young women face additional social barriers that prevent their full participation in the formal economic sector.

YasminaThen, Yasmina learned about NEF’s Empowering Youth through Entrepreneurship in Morocco (EYEM) program. “For a long time, I considered opening up my own business,” Yasmina said. “The EYEM program helped me transform my idea into reality.”

With the help of the project’s junior coaches and staff, Yasmina developed a viable business plan and financial strategy that was approved for funding by the project’s selection committee. With the project grant, Yasmina purchased all the materials she needed to open her beauty salon—which launched in July 2016.

“I love my business and I am happy to open the salon every morning,” Yasmina said. “It provides me with flexibility and it makes me more independent financially. My parents are so proud of me now. I am highly motivated in my new stage of life and I have many future plans.”

Yasmina is able to communicate with her clients through signs, and her mother and sister-in-law provide support—especially in taking appointments over the phone. To expand her business model, Yasmina created a space for her sister-in-law who is a hair stylist. While Yasmina provides cosmetology services, her sister-in-law provides hair services in the salon.

Yasmina has ambitious plans for the future of her salon. She will participate in post-business creation training sessions offered through the EYEM project, and is interested in learning about microcredit opportunities and new laws regarding entrepreneurship in Morocco.

Another EYEM participant, Nabil Khalidi, a 24-year-old graduate from the Mohammadia School of Engineering who dreamed of using his skills in electrical engineering to revolutionize smallholder farming in Morocco.

UsiNabil 1ng his skills, Nabil developed a model for a solar-powered irrigation system for small farms. The system delivers the necessary amount of water to each plant, making irrigation more efficient and improving productivity. Through his participation in the EYEM program, Nabil has transformed his model into a business—Agri Energy S.A.R.L.

“The EYEM project helped me to put into reality every idea I had in my mind about energy production and automation,” Nabil said. “The success of this project will help change the way farmers use irrigation. It has the potential to revolutionize the agricultural field in a way that optimizes energy and water consumption, while ensuring the sustainable development that our country is seeking.”

With project support, Nabil developed a professional business plan for his idea and received a small grant of approximately $2000 to launch his enterprise in June 2016. Agri Energy S.A.R.L. develops and installs solar irrigation systems, allowing water to be pumped into remote locations that are beyond the reach of electric power lines. The solar powered system provides an environmentally friendly way to efficiently pump more water for drinking, stock tanks, sanitation, and irrigation.

Nabil 2Nabil installed a pilot plot on his uncle’s farm to test every aspect of the system and ensure reliability. Once fully tested, Nabil will market the system to local farmers. Nabil has estimated that farmers will see a benefit of 4,000 to 20,000 Moroccan dirhams depending on the space and materials used (based on savings in energy, water, and labor costs). Further, the improved irrigation methods will increase production by 3 to 10 percent.

So far, the EYEM project has trained 486 youth in microenterprise development (263 men and 221 women), assisted over 349 youth in developing and improving professional business plans, and helped 250 businesses launch to date (47% female).

For more information about NEF’s work in Morocco, click here.