The Road to the Market: Developing the capacity of Syrian rural women in food production and packaging and promotion
Under the “Training for all” programme, funded by the Government of Japan, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the Ministry of Agriculture and Agrarian Reform (MAAR) gathered more than 80 rural women producers from different Syrian governorates, and agronomists from the Rural Women’s Empowerment Directorate, to reinforce Syrian rural women’s entrepreneurship skills and to enhance their ability to market traditional foods.
“The Road to the Market” workshop aimed to expand rural women’s knowledge and information on product quality standards, and to gain practice in promotion, negotiation, product positioning and branding skills. The aim was to help them develop their own small-scale food-based enterprises on solid foundations, and to increase their income by selling improved and competitive food products in local and national markets.
“Rural women are at the core of the Syrian agricultural economy,” said Mike Robson, FAO Representative in the Syrian Arab Republic. “During the past eight years of crisis, in many households they have become the main breadwinners.”
“With these women’s talent, enthusiasm and energy – combined with their ability to make excellent foods like jams, pickles, ready-to-eat food and dairy produce, with a better understanding of how to position their products with buyers – they can become trusted suppliers in terms of quality and safety and offer competitive prices. These high-quality food products can compete with others in the local market,” Robson added.
The Minister of Agriculture and Agrarian Reform, Ahmad Al-Qadri, further highlighted the role of the Government of the Syrian Arab Republic in supporting this very important segment of the market. Around 1 billion SYP (approximately USD 1.94 million) has been allocated through agriculture banks to provide credit to rural women, however much more needs to be done.
“Marketing is crucial because production is meaningless if not linked to the market. The demands of the market is key to start any business. Price, quality, labelling and production capacity are all critical considerations that any entrepreneur should ponder before engaging in the market,” said Al-Qadri.
He further emphasized the importance of repeating similar events in the context of the fruitful ongoing collaboration between MAAR and FAO, which includes efforts to support women’s empowerment and boost the rural economy. A prominent Syrian entrepreneur, Hassan al-Nouri, also attended the event. While sharing his recollections of the initial stages of his own business, he encouraged the audience to stay determined despite the many challenges they may face, and not to take no for an answer. Innovation, he continued, is one of the keys to their success.
Throughout this two-day training event, participants had a crucial opportunity to role-play, presenting their products to a supermarket owner, to enable them to see things from the buyer’s point of view. It was agreed that the workshop should be rolled out to others at both governorate and central levels, and to provide other opportunities for participants to share their experiences after adopting what they had learned, and further upgrade their skills.