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Women stories from Mafraq governorate: Enhancing food and nutrition security and reinforcing social cohesion

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ACTED teams in Jordan implemented a homestead gardening project based on hydroponics and community gardens in collaboration with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).

Over 550 households (3,000 beneficiaries), half being vulnerable Syrian refugees and half being vulnerable Jordanians living in host communities, have benefitted from agricultural trainings, conducted by expert trainers from the National Centre for Agricultural Research and Extension (NCARE). They provided agricultural and hydroponic technics, teaching communities how to plant seedlings, irrigate and take care of the soils to guarantee food and nutrition security. ACTED supported FAO in implementing and monitoring the project through its network of community-based organizations (CBOs).

The project was highly welcomed by the Syrian refugee and Jordanian communities, and numerous non-beneficiaries expressed interest in participating in future activities, which, beyond providing new and useful agricultural practices, enable communities to enhance social cohesion.

On the occasion of International Women Day, we share testimonies of Jordanian and Syrian women who participated in the trainings and got mobilized for better food and nutrition security and to reinforce social cohesion among their community.

The story of Salma and Doaa

Salma, 30, and Doaa, 26, are two Jordanian women living in Mafraq governorate, who both attended the training and have now hydroponic systems at home.

Both of them used to stay home and take care of their children, since they had no occupation. They are now working on the project, acquiring new skills through this new activity and benefitting from it. “Of course I didn’t work before the project, my husband provided all the money for the family. I was a housewife. The project gave me skills. I had never planted and I never worked before. It enhanced my personality and it made me able to bring something to my house and children, and not just be a housewife”, Doaa says.

Salma adds: “My husband was very happy with the project. Our neighbors, brothers and relatives were not expecting this project but when they saw it was producing something, they were very happy, and they would love to do what I do.”

The story of Eida and Ibtissam

Eida is a 35-year-old Syrian mother who started to work in the same community garden as Ibtissam, a 32-year-old Jordanian woman whom she met when attending ACTED’s training. Both of them used to be housewives.

Ibtissam explains: “I am Jordanian and Eida is my neighbor, she leaves beside me, she is Syrian.”

“My name is Eida, I am 35, I am married and have four children… and there is another child on the way! I am Syrian, from Dara’a. I came in 2013 and I live in Az-Zubadiyya in Mafraq governorate. I participated in this project when it started. I was working with the community garden, I also participated in the hydroponic system at home and attended all the trainings at the community-based organization. It was excellent and I really benefited from it, especially when an agricultural engineer trainer came. […] He trained us on how to check the quality of the soil, how to plant seedlings, how to irrigate and how to take care of the soil before and after the planting.”

Eida and Ibtissam are very happy and satisfied about the trainings: “We were together in the training and always sitting and working together”, Eida says. “There were even house visits to benefit from each other. In the greenhouse, we planted together and our relationship strengthened, professionally but also personally.” Ibtissam adds: “We met and our relationship got better during the trainings and house visits.”

When asked about how this experience changed their life, Ibtissam and Eida both answer positively: “I am a housewife, I didn’t work before”, Ibtissam says. Concerning how the fact they work now was perceived by the families, Eida exclaims: “Of course my husband was fully agreeing that I participate in the project. His family and our relatives were also happy because we learned how to prepare homemade food in a clean place and we gained experience, which will improve our way of living.”

A testimony by Farah, head of Al Nawafeth community-based organization and school director

Farah, a Jordanian woman heading a school and a community-based organization (CBO) in Mafraq, tells about her experience of a community garden in her school:

“I am Farah, director of Nusiba Almazinia school and manager of Al Nawafeth CBO. I have a community garden project, which I brought to the school because it is safe […]. We try to make it safe so as the beneficiaries’ work is not a waste. The beginning of the project wasn’t very clear, I was a little afraid although I am educated […] and I am the school manager. My relationship with the Syrians was discreet; it is true that all of us are Arabs and Muslims but their environment is different from ours: the nature and the environment is different and in the religion we have some restrictions and they have others. […] When Jordanian women knew that there were Syrians [involved in the project], they were a little afraid and there was distance between them. When the nutrition [trainings] started in the CBO and they all sat in the same place, a Jordanian on one chair and a Syrian beside her, they asked each other questions like “What’s your name?”, “Where do you come from and why did you come here?” The distance between them became smaller and fear started to disappear. […] As the manager of the CBO, I noticed it from the way they were interacting with each other. When they started working in the community garden [they would say]: “Come here, see this!”, “What did you do with your plant and look at what I did with my plant”, […] and they were building relationships with each other. Even in the houses, the relationship was nonexistent. The Syrians were only the tenants, nothing more, and the relationship was very superficial. Rarely someone would come see them, unless they were relatives from Syria. The fear started to fade away, and the relationships between the women became better.”