Financing Rural Handicrafts [Archives:1997/50/Business & Economy]

December 15 1997

Organized by the Rural Women Development directorate (RWD) and inaugurated by the Minister of Agriculture and Irrigation, Mr. Ahmed Salem Al-Jabali, an exhibition of products by rural women. He emphasized the need to “support rural women and help alleviate some of their burdens because they do a lot of work, at home and on the farm, especially when their husbands are working abroad.” The assistance mentioned by the Mr. Al-Jabali includes providing rural women with farm tools and machinery, seeds, fertilizers, pesticides, cattle fodder, and other essential farming requirements.
The RWD was established in 1979 with rather limited resources, covering a small number of governorates. The current number of beneficiary families exceeds 3,000 with plans and programs being implemented through 24 female guidance centers spread all over the country. Each guidance center covers two to five villages and is run by trained female cadres. The RWD activities include the following: * managing special training farms (vegetables, fruits and fodder); * distributing tree saplings for plantations; * training women on sewing, embroidery, knitting, food preserving, first aid , and organizing illiteracy classes; * raising women’s awareness of public health, mother and child care, and nutrition; * organizing vaccination campaigns; * implementing population education programs; * providing veterinary services; and * qualifying and training women, including MA programs, to be able to train rural women. The RWD’s other newly adopted activities include the following; * providing rural women with soft loans for carrying out cattle and sheep rearing projects; and * helping needy families by training the women to sew and providing them with the necessary sewing machines and soft loans to start their own small businesses as well as helping them to market their products. Chronic lack of resources, however, impedes the implementation of many of the above programs. Lack of proper transportation often impedes the RWD staff whose work takes them to remote and isolated areas. Ms. Nahla Ahmed Thabet, the representative of the Agricultural Cooperative Bank said, “for a rural woman to get a loan from our bank, she has to provide some sort of collateral such as a piece of real estate.” According to Ms. Thabet, a large number of farmers take out soft loans from the bank. The RWD director and manager of the Dutch project to support the RWD, Ms. Bilquis Abdulsattar said, “the RWD coordinates with agricultural cooperatives and provides technical and financial assistance in order to help rural women.” Ms. Abdulsattar pointed out that the RWD is looking for international donor organizations to help in implementing its more ambitious programs and projects. Such projects include the Southern Heights Projects in Taiz and Ibb, the Integrated Rural Development project in Radaa, the Tihama Development project, and several others. “There is a big demand for qualified female trainers, quite a few at the moment, to work with rural women who form a large part of the workforce in the countryside,” indicated Ms. Abdulsattar. She also pointed out that more development projects and programs are now directed towards rural areas in the southern regions of Yemen such as Lahaj, Shabwa, Abyan, Hadhramaut, Al-Mahara, etc. According to the final results of the “general report of the population, housing and establishments census of 1994,” 77% of the total population in Yemen lives in the countryside, 50% of the rural population is composed of women, and 95% of the economically active rural female population is involved in agriculture and livestock breeding. On the other hand, 58% of the economically active rural male population is involved in agricultural activities.