Seven years ago, a woman named Toma walked into a local bank in Sudan. As a farmer, she had big dreams about the harvests she could raise and the money she could make selling her crops -- if she could just get a loan for seeds and tools.
She hoped that the bank official she spoke to would hear her out. She knew that women farmers were often counted out, and the banks gave the big loans to the men. But that day, someone took a chance on her. They knew that she was one of the original 200 members of the Women Farmers Union that MADRE co-founded and supports in Sudan. They deemed her creditworthy, and she walked out with a loan of $100.
That was just the beginning. After years of successful harvests and timely payments, Toma now can count on loans from the bank as big as the ones they offer to men. She is a leader among women farmers in her community. Soon, she will be able to buy her own land and expand her production.
Fatima Ahmed, president of Zenab for Women in Development, our sister organization in Sudan, told us this story on her last visit to see us. She shared that in the past year, the Women Farmers Union has grown tremendously. At the end of 2013, there were 5,241 women in the union farming nearly 50,000 acres across 60 villages.
Fatima gave examples of another woman in the union named Zenab who is using her success to give back. With the increased farming income that she has gained with the support of the union, she has graduated from an adult education program. Now, she teaches other women how to read.
But it’s not all good news. Many areas in Eastern Sudan are feeling the impact of climate change. There was less rain in 2013 as compared to 2012, and the precipitation that did come was delayed. Instead of planting crops in June or July, the planting schedule has shifted to the beginning of August.
“Climate change is a reality,” Fatima told us. “We want the women to be equipped to deal with drought and other threats.”
The women are being trained in adaptive agricultural techniques such as water harvesting. This involves plowing deeper rows to collect water and emphasizes the importance of planting trees around their farms to prevent erosion and rapid water evaporation.
The women in the union sent a message with Fatima, letting us know that they appreciate MADRE’s support for the program and how much it is improving their lives. And they sent gifts for us! Fatima brought us sesame seeds and oil, pressed using the miller bought with the support of MADRE members.
In March, we shared with you that the women of Women Farmers Unite were working hard to obtain a machine to extract oil from their sesame seed and groundnut crops. Thanks to your support, we were recently able to provide 20 women farmers with 100 pounds of seeds and help the women purchase an oil miller!
The women farmers have been dreaming of an oil miller for a long time now. Extracted oil from sesame seeds and groundnuts is a lucrative product in local markets. With their own oil miller, the women farmers have eliminated the need for third party millers, saving time, energy and money. Thanks to your support, over 100 women farmers and their families will benefit from the oil miller! The women farmers will now earn more income to feed their families, send their children to school and invest in their communities. Thank you!
Halema is the leader of the women farmers group in the Gunglisa village. Fatima Ahmed is the director of Zenab for Women in Development, our sister organization in Sudan. Fatima recently spoke with Halema about her participation in the Women Farmers Union.
"This is the true way to women's empowerment," she said to Fatima. "And the oil miller will add value to our product and increase our income to feed our kids."
Thanks so much for supporting this life-sustaining work!
Click here to watch MADRE's video, "Sudan's First and Only Women Farmer Union"!
Video description: In Sudan, young women identify gender discrimination and climate change as their two greatest obstacles to farming. But a Women Farmers Union, supported by MADRE, overcomes these barriers.One woman named Fatima Ahmed, a local agronomist, saw how women farmers grow most of their families' food, yet are denied crucial support that the Ministry of Agriculture gives to men.The women found a solution: Sudan's first and only Women Farmers Union. They organized to obtain tools, seeds and training. They pooled resources to buy a tractor, and they share their sustainable and profitable farming strategies.With a focus on young women, the Union allows women farmers to boost family nutrition, earn income and improve farming practices for the future.
Fatima Ahmed, director of MADRE’s sister organization Zenab for Women in Development, recently shared some success stories from the Women Farmers Union. Together with Zenab, MADRE supports over 3,000 women farmers, giving them the tools, resources and technical assistance they need to sustain their families for the long haul. Keep reading to learn how this program is helping transform women’s lives:
Your support truly strengthens our sisters in Sudan, their families, and their communities. Thank you!
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