di Carolina Cinerari
Dar el Ahmar is a small center of approximately 20.000 residents in the Bekkaa valley, located in the Governorate of Baalbek – Hermel, whose economy relies primarily on agricultural and food processing activities. ARCS, in partnership with Ricerca and Cooperazione, is currently implementing the project “We are future: vocational training and socio-economic inclusion of young people, women and people with disabilities”. Its aim is to foster women entrepreneurship, by delivering vocational trainings on food processing of local agricultural products and by matching women of the area to small/medium local enterprises for apprenticeship opportunities.
We met Rouba at “Caritas Food Processing Center” in Dar el Ahmar where she is spending her apprenticeship which will last 105 hours. During these hours she is involved in the industrial production of flour, cheese, jam and pickles:
“The skills I gained through the participation in this project will allow me to enter the field of food production and to contribute to the enhancement of the local supply chain from the producer to the consumer.”
Rouba, 34, took part in an apprenticeship after completing the five-module vocational training organized by RC in cooperation with ARCS. The five modules included the following topics: seasonality and features of the agricultural products, sanitary and hygienic procedures for food processing, analysis and quality controls from production to sale, hygienic standards for personnel and hygienic guidelines according to Lebanese law, packaging and labeling for marketing purposes.
“During the training we had the chance to attend classes with experts, chemical engineers and bacteriologists, they thought us hygienic and sanitary procedures to guarantee adequate standards. This contribute, in my opinion, was an important added value to my participation to the project”.
Visiting the city center, we also met Angel, the founder the local cooperative Jana al Ayadi in 2002, which is currently hosting the trainees for the apprenticeship. Angel runs the cooperative, she is also an expert in food processing and she directly follows the participants during their apprenticeships, guiding them in the completion of their formation.
“This project creates job opportunities for women that in many cases encounter difficulties in entering the job market, especially in the rural areas.”
“Before I was a teacher, then I started my career within the agribusiness field. Now the cooperative sales its own products internationally; we managed to enlarge the production also thanks to the new entries coming for the apprenticeships.”
Rouba and Angel are just two of the voices that we chose to represent the reality in Dar el Ahmar; their stories shed light on the importance of relying on local economies in order to find innovative solutions for a sustainable growth, especially in rural areas. We should focus on the enhancement of local traditional knowledge along of new skills, while facilitating stable and effective relations with local small and medium enterprises.
The partnership between RC and ARCS, thanks to the support of the Italian Agencies for Cooperation and Development, will continue until the beginning of the summer, delivering a total of 3 cycles of vocational training and launching apprenticeships with SMEs involving a total of 90 women.