Decentralized cooperation

Agricultural Cooperative Association In Halloussiyeh - UNDP (United Nations Development Programme)

By Localiban | - last updated :

français |  عربي

UNDP grant : 13,000$ for food processing equipments.

The cooperative of Halloussiyeh was established in 1998 thank to the recommendations and encouragement of UNDP. Indeed, the cooperative first started with 12 members who were using the tractor granted by UNDP to support farmers by renting the truck for agricultural purposes at a reduced price, and help in municipal works such as garbage collection (due to the absence of the municipality at that time). Since, the cooperative grew and expanded its services and production; it now comprises a total of 57 members, 33 males and 24 females. As a first stage, the cooperative only had male farmers as members.

However, in 2003 women started being included and became active members of the cooperative. The success of the cooperative currently relies on both genders joint efforts; male farmers provide the raw material and women ensure the processing and cooking of raw material by using traditional recipes . Women first started cooking in their homes until the Istituto per la Cooperazione Universitaria Onlus (ICU) helped in rental expenses; the land is now secured for the coming 20 years. Women are very pleased to be actively involved in the village’s activities, to generate income supporting their families, and are proud to make their traditional food known and available in the market. They testified that their presence at the cooperative is not for financial purpose: “they will be willing to work as volunteers and are there for the self satisfying and rewarding experience”.
The cooperative mainly relies on exhibitions to make itself known; this method proved to be very successful with many people reordering their produces after buying or tasting it during an exhibition. The cooperative participates in at least six exhibitions per year in addition to the weekly market of Souk El Taib in Saifi and the Sunday market in the Khan of Saida (Sidon). Word of mouth was as well a very effective marketing tool, with people spreading the word on the tasty and good quality of their produces. The women members of the cooperative have been attending several training sessions regarding quality control, marketing, packaging and selling techniques; they are part of a network combining six cooperatives of the south: the “South cooperative Network”.

The previous cooperative’s president remained for a period of ten consecutive years. He started in his last presidency years to behave in a self interested manner which disturbed the on going activities of the cooperative. Therefore, the cooperative’s members took the initiative to conduct new elections and amended their regulations to have new president elections every two years. The current cooperative’s president, Mr. Hussein Serhani was elected six month ago and is supported by a very active manager Mr. Mohamad Achmar who follows up works. Since the new management was established, the cooperative’s production increased again, members were re-motivated and the cooperative participated in major exhibitions.

However, the past years were very difficult due to the unavailability of adequate machineries for production. Women were spending a lot of consuming and costly time and efforts to meet their market demand. This sometimes caused physical exhaustion cases and burning accidents. For instance, it used to take a full day to produce only 250 kg of ketchup with the same woman spending more than 18 hours steering the boiling tomato juice.

Therefore, the machineries provided by UNDP will permit saving efforts and money since it enables the production of food produces with suitable machineries that need less labor and time. The cooperative will insure production with improved quantity and quality conforming to international standards. The additional profits generated thank to the machineries will improve the living standards of the 57 members along with their extended families.

The cooperative is currently producing all types of jams and is mainly known for its dried tomatoes and olives derivatives. The idea of ketchup came up when a Lebanese entrepreneur from the “Equitable Gourmet and Marigold Healthfood” British company requested them to produce Ketchup to export to Britain. The ketchup he ordered is made of a specific secret recipe based on the usage of pomegranate instead of sugar, with no other additive. 3000 ketchup bottles were already produced and sent to Britain. The British market successfully adopted this innovative produce and an additional order of at least 6000 bottles is secured for the coming year.

The cooperative intends to expend its ketchup production to the local market and the plantation of tomatoes in their farmers’ lands. Additionally, the cooperative wants to focus and specialize its production and marketing on their most successful items: tomatoes derivatives (tomato jam, tomato juice, dried tomato, tomato sauce) / olives and its derivatives / Fig jam /Bitter orange marmalade. It is important to note that the cooperative is the unique producer of Ketchup and dried tomatoes in the region and was the pioneer in tomato jam production.

The cooperative of Halloussiyeh is a clear example of a group of Southern people that have the will and ability of moving forward with a long term vision, regardless of their harsh and unstable conditions.

Source : UNDP