In April 2019, Consolidated Contractors Company (CCC), started a new corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiative to create sustainable livelihoods for poor women farmers in Minya, Upper Egypt.
Launched one year ago in partnership with Alfanar (www.alfanar.org), the Arab region’s first venture philanthropy organization, the initiative has since trained hundreds of female farmers in agricultural best practices and business skills, helping participants to improve their economic status by earning more income from their crops and livestock.
With 24% unemployment among women and 65% of Egypt’s economy reliant on agriculture, the need to modernize Egyptian farming and create dignified jobs for women in Egypt’s rural communities has never been greater. As the impressive results of this one-year project demonstrate, CCC and Alfanar’s partnership is at the cutting edge of the response to this great social and economic need.
Using a UN-pioneered model known as the Farmer Field Schools, this fruitful partnership has now trained 450 female farmers from 9 villages in Minya, while eight Ministry of Agriculture engineers were trained by professors from the University of Minya to act as Farmer Field School instructors.
Over 36 training days, cohorts of 25 students learned techniques around soil preparation, irrigation, treating plant diseases, composting, using natural alternatives to fertilizers and pesticides, and cultivating corn, soybean, garlic, okra and sesame. Students also learned various methods of animal husbandry, such as breeding poultry, Muscovy ducks, pigeons, rabbits and laying hens, as well food processing methods such as cheese making and rennet and animal feed production. An area of land in each village was rented where students could practice the farming methods learnt through the Farmer Field School.
For a group of 50 advanced learners who wished to go one step further and establish a professional farming business, the project also funded and established a Farmer Business School to deliver additional training on business planning, bookkeeping, marketing, profitability, risk management, and more.
Participants were also trained in a range of soft skills and important social and public health topics, including relationship management, early marriages, domestic violence, child labour, problem-solving, communication, anger management, oral health, FGM, family planning, and prenatal care.
Looking to the future, the Farmer Field School and Farmer Business School curricula have been digitized so that the project can be scaled more efficiently to other communities in Egypt, and eventually across the MENA region. The curriculum can be accessed through an Android-based app on mobile phones and tablets and can function without access to the internet.
Unexpectedly, the outbreak of the COVID-19 crisis has since revealed the great value of this innovative digitized programme, enabling women farmers to continue learning and enhancing their productivity throughout the current crisis. In light of the success of this pilot initiative, CCC and Alfanar are now looking to expand the scope of their partnership to help sustainably improve more lives in Egypt.