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USAID Empowers First Woman “Reporter Farmer”
As a single mother of three daughters, Bat’a Ibrahim experienced many personal and financial challenges in her hometown of Armant, Luxor. When she lost her parents several years ago, she lost her support system and worried about her ability to provide for her children. After inheriting a plot of land from her parents, she began growing sugarcane, hibiscus, wheat, mangos, and 30 palm date trees to generate income.
“In those early days, I had minimal knowledge with regard to agriculture and had to learn all by myself,” explained Bat’a. “I came a long way. It was not easy … Still, I persevered to prove to myself and my community that I can be a success.”
Technical Assistance Leads to Increased Earnings
Bat’a learned of an opportunity to attend information sessions with the Feed the Future Egypt Rural Agribusiness Strengthening Project, a USAID-funded activity implemented by Abt Associates. This was the first time since inheriting her land that she received comprehensive agriculture and financial management training. During six months of capacity building, she learned agricultural best practices—addressing everything from land preparation to the post-harvest stage—as well as how to manage a budget. After the trainings, Bat’a started applying recommended practices to her own farm, under the guidance of the Project’s consultants.
Bat’a used to earn EGP 200 (USD $12.74) per palm date tree, but now her returns have reached almost EGP 1,300 (USD $82.79). The increase came after attending Abt-led trainings, which enabled her to sell higher quality produce at higher volumes and improve her financial management skills. Her profits on mangos have also increased to four times what she used to earn, from EGP 1,500 (USD $99.53) to EGP 6,700 (USD $444.60) per about half acre of mango orchard.
Opening the Lines of Communication
The Project regularly provides technical assistance to support smallholder farmers and facilitates cross collaboration but, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, shifted to remote technical assistance, creating WhatsApp community groups to allow people to connect virtually. These value chain-specific groups provided spaces for smallholder farmers to receive technical recommendations, share best practices, and pose questions to other farmers and the Project’s technical staff. Participants could even share videos of their crops to seek personalized support.
Many farmers do not have access to smartphones, however, so the Project decided to create a new position called a “reporter farmer” who conducts in-person visits, listens to farmers’ questions, and uses a smart phone to capture photos and videos. Then, the reporter farmer uploads the content to the WhatsApp groups on behalf of the farmers to transfer technical recommendations and facilitate communication with the consultants.
A Promotion, An Expansion
Bat’a was one of the first candidates to be selected as a reporter farmer, and she is the first-ever woman to serve in this voluntary position. As a reporter farmer, Bat’a has benefitted by gaining invaluable technical knowledge and experience from her regular communication with Project technical experts and from her field visits to neighboring farms. Her farm is now also an excellent model, positioning her to host a demonstration plot with input suppliers who want to pilot their products in the area. Owners of the demonstration plots usually receive free fertilizers, pesticides, or other inputs from the suppliers who wish to showcase and market their products to other farmers. They also receive intensive technical assistance and regular follow-up visits to ensure the plots are in the best shape possible.
Because of her trusted role in the community and her personal experience as a farmer, Bat’a communicates easily with both the local farmers and the technical experts. She now conducts visits to the 37 neighboring farmers in her village and follows up with each of them regularly, enabling each of them to reap the financial returns that she achieved herself after attending the Project’s technical trainings. Bat’a is incredibly proud of her role as a community leader and her ability to lend a helping hand to those in need. She is confident also that she can build on her newly acquired experience to grow her business—she’s buying a new piece of land to cultivate new varietals of fruit crops.
Because of her commitment and success, the Project asked Bat’a to attend its FY22 workplan workshop in Alexandria. There, participants presented achievements and challenges, and brainstormed ideas for further cooperation between the Project and smallholder farmers and knowledge sharing among farmers.
“I want as many people as possible to benefit from the Project and the technical support as I did,” said Bat’a, who plans to expand her technical support to neighboring villages and hopes to reach over 100 farmers this season. “My involvement with the Project was a life-changing step for me, and I am happy to share this critical knowledge and support my community. When given a chance, women in Upper Egypt like me can achieve great things. They just need proper guidance to unlock their untapped potential.”