Following a decade of conflict, many potential food processors in Syria find themselves without needed connections: to quality vegetables at affordable prices, to processing facilities, to markets for their goods, and to each other. This influences not only their potential for income, but also the food security of their families.
Connections are exactly what their local Siraj Centers provide. Siraj Centers are community livelihoods hubs, established in conflicted-affected areas of Syria, as part of the USAID’s Advancing Agricultural Markets in Syria (AAMS) program. Implemented by the Near East Foundation, the project provides technical and financial support and needed connections.
Like all participants, Reem and Miram, attended training and gained access to a processing facility where they could produce professional products. They were also connected directly to a farmer, with whom they arranged the purchase of okra and tomatoes to process and preserve.
“With this process we have shortened the trouble of going to the vegetable market and we have chosen vegetables with the quantities and size that suit us, at competitive prices,” said Miriam.
Najem found an alternative solution to the challenge of accessing raw materials, which can vary in the markets. With the help of her local Siraj Center, she invested in both vegetable production and in food processing. A project grant allowed her to purchase a submersible pump for accessing groundwater and to plant all the products she needed for food processing, including cucumber, lemon, molokhia, watermelon and zucchini.
Najem received all the necessary training, from agriculture technical training to improved processing practices, branding, and marketing for her pickles, jams and dried goods.
Across Raqqa and Hasakeh, women have also been connected to each other. Organized into teams of anywhere from three to ten women, they are able to collectively purchase equipment and inputs, share the labor needed to produce for market, and attain competitive contracts for their goods.
Together, these women have processed thousands of kilograms of tomatoes into tomato paste. Additional products include pickled cucumbers, pepper molasses, and green molokhia. Through the establishment of their enterprises, the women who participated have been able to generate income for their families, many for the first time.
*All names have been changed to ensure anonymity.