‘I had no money to buy things for the children. I couldn’t afford food, shoes or clothes,’ recalls Sabah Kamal, a widow and mother of five. ‘I used to say to the children, "don’t compare yourself to others."’
Food, education or healthcare
Life is difficult for small scale farmers in Egypt. Many grow traditional crops, such as wheat and corn, which they depend on to survive and as a source of income. Yet without any organised structure and faced with a scarcity of buyers, they are often taken advantage of.
So while farmers watch their already meagre incomes increasingly erode, the day-to-day struggle to provide for their families - whether that’s food, education or healthcare – persists.
Power in a union
With the help of Christian Aid partner The Coptic Evangelical Organisation for Social Services (CEOSS) the lives of small scale farmers, such as Sabah, have improved.
CEOSS supports farmers and their communities through the formation of farmer organisations - designed to bring farmers together.
Sabah explains: ‘In the past we were exploited. The middlemen used to come and take the crops at a cheap price.
'We unified as farmers, and as a group were able to negotiate a fairer price, a better price.’
At the last count, over 4,100 farmers have seen their incomes increase.
Sabah also received invaluable advice on composting and cultivating crops. She used to throw away organic waste but thanks to guidance from CEOSS she now uses it to make organic fertiliser, which has increased the quality and size of her harvest.
Sabah remarks: ‘The [corn] has improved. It is much bigger, greener and stronger. It tastes better.’
From a position of strength
Thanks to CEOSS, farmer organisations are now recognised by the government and meet with government officials at both national and local level. From this improved position of strength they are now able to negotiate and agree terms for the provision of seeds and equipment, all at a subsidised rate.
For Sabah, providing for her family is much easier now, a fairer price means a better return for her toil. It means food on the table for her children.
Sabah has benefitted in others ways too; she has a renewed confidence from being a part of the organisation.
She says: ‘I’m not afraid anymore. I have to be strong and brave. [CEOSS] helped me so much; with growing crops, farming and with loans – without which I wouldn’t have been able to send my children to school.’
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