With support of UAWC Lama and Lara tackle unemployment through agricultural work
Lama Omar, 24, and Lara Badeir, 23, graduates of the Faculty of Agricultural Production from An-Najah National University in Nablus, were thinking of a creative agricultural project when the Union of Agricultural Work Committees (UAWC) announced an opportunity to finance distinctive projects in agriculture or related fields. They were motivated to uncover a crop that does not exist in Palestine and attempt to cultivate it. Their research idea was rooted in their desire to find an alternative to artificial sweeteners - as they pose a danger to consumers with high blood pressure as well as kidney patients due to their high sodium concentration - and to create a natural product free from any preservatives or additives.
Lara and Lama learned about the Stevia sugar plant through their diligent research. First discovered in Latin America, Stevia is a plant containing large amounts of antioxidant compounds, such as flavonoids and terpenes, is rich in protein, iron, potassium, magnesium, sodium and vitamin A. Since the plant does not exist in Palestine and there have been no previous attempts to cultivate here, Lana and Lama continued their research and hence learned about the companies and farmers in Egypt producing the stevia sugar crop. They decided to contact them in order to gather information about the plant and all that relates to it from cultivating it and its benefits.
From Construct to Reality
Once Lara and Lama received the approval of UAWC and got the grant, their idea turned into a ground-based project. Their journey thus began to find land for implementing the project, resulting in buying land in Kafr Jammal village in the Tulkarm governorate. They began to implement the project on a one dunam piece of land, and through continuous follow-up and support from UAWC, they were provided with a greenhouse, irrigation pipes and Stevia seedlings.
Lara says: “"we are dedicating our expertise to our continuous research, and we are working hard to cultivate our crop, starting with the different stages of crop growth, providing optimal conditions for plant growth, the drying procedures and manual spraying of pesticides.”
"Our project is unique and we hope it succeeds”
Lara and Lama were the first to grow the Stevia sugar crop in the Palestinian Territory. From their first experience in marketing the crop, they found the crop to be particularly popular among diabetics. This plant provides a promising alternative to insulin and is beneficial for those with high blood pressure, as well as being a dietary supplement.
In the production stages, Lara and Lama manually dry and prepare the crop as there are no machines to help them in this process. However, the biggest obstacle is the absence of a packaging machine, as they require a machine to pack half a gram sufficient for one cup. Having a packaging machine will facilitate the marketing process, especially when selling Stevia sugar to nutrition and wellness centers, which require detailed specifications that must be listed on the properly packaged product.
Hence, Lara and Lama are looking for another grant to enable them to buy the packaging machine, which entails a big leap forward in the project. Lama states "we love our project, which is unique, and we hope it will succeed. We hope that through the development plan of the project, we will be able to set up our own packing and packaging plant equipped with machinery that will allow us to easily carry out all post-harvest stages with less time and effort. We can then supply the entire market and export as well.
We also aspire to reduce the price of final product that will be at a lower cost to the consumer, as all production costs will decrease. "
This represents a Palestinian success story that tackles the issue of unemployment of young men and women graduates through investing in agricultural work .... A story of perseverance and determination to transform an idea into reality.