Empowering farmers in Ajloun

Trip Start Jun 27, 2011
Trip End Sep 04, 2011

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What I did
Visited the Ajloun Complex

Flag of Jordan  , Irbid,
Wednesday, July 13, 2011

JRF's Ajloun Complex (a community empowerment project (CEP)); is a site consisting of a small scale, locally run factory where apple cider, pomegranate molasses and raisins, among other seasonal goods, are produced. It is about an hour and half northwest of Amman.  Today I went to the Ajloun Complex with the JRF Donor Relations Coordinator and three top managers from a large Arab company.  The company has an Executive Leadership program for top managers in which they must spend a certain amount of time using their professional skills volunteering in the community.  They contacted JRF to learn about possible volunteer opportunities.                      Ajloun Complex is a 6 year-old JRF CEP project.  Ajloun is the only region of Jordan where things like fruit can successfully grow.  The Jordanian farmers produce on a small scale and face stiff competition from farmers in Syria who have much higher yeilds.  The farmers also end up throwing away a lot of "no good" fruit that has fallen from the trees and is picked at by birds or that has gone bad due to a lack of refrigeration.  Due to these issues farmers are giving up, leaving Ajloun, and moving to the city.                                                                                                                     Going back a bit...a large funder approached JRF about starting an empowerment project in Ajloun.  The JRF CEP staff went to Ajloun and did a needs assessment.  They decided that the best project for the funder to contribute to would be one that gives the farmers and their families the tools to stay in Ajloun, continue farming and profit from the products they grow/make.  After the needs assessment they decided the community needed a building, large chillers for fruit to be stored, and tools to process apple vinegar, molasses, raisins (all organic) from the fruits that are not good enough to sell on their own.  The CEP created a cooperative within the community where locals monetarily buy in to the project and then have a say in how things are run.  After JRF assessed the needs and connected the funder to the community they left the rest to the cooperative.  This is how the CEP program works.  It believes that it is up to the cooperative to use the resources and empower themselves.  

Going back to the Execs from the company...JRF is introducing them to the complex in hopes that they will develop a business and marketing plan. It was clear the Executives came from a business mind set as they were keen to point out the structural, product, and marketing inefficiencies of the cooperative.  But, they were also quite excited to work on the project.  In the end the Execs agreed to  work on the project and we all left with fresh plums in hand.                                                                                      While I only understood every 5th or 6th word it was a great experience and helped me further understand the CEP projects.  While I think it is good that JRF is hands off in their approach I think it is important that they institute better monitoring and evaluation mechanisms.  This is something that I know they are interested in doing.  They have over 200 CEP projects and need to know if the investment/connection is working in order to have successful projects in the future.




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