The Oxfam Enterprise Development Program

Place: palestine, Asia
Sustainable development of small rural communities Sustainable development of small rural communities
Total Budget: € 360.000,00 | Period: From January 2012 To March 2014


The initiative is the development of women enterprise initiative through sustainable development in order to improve livelihood and food security in a sustainable manner in rural communities in Palestine


Economic and Social Development Center of Palestine - Palestine

Lead applicant

ESDC is a development-oriented NGO in Palestine in development cooperation. ESDC works with farmers to restore their agricultural activities and to mitigate the negative impact of Israeli occupation and natural crises on their socio-economic conditions and food security. ESDC is a well recognized at the national level for their work in developing and building the capacities of cooperatives and the cooperative sector. ESDC build the institutional capacities, and develops the capacity of cooperatives, CBOs and working groups in natural resources management, agriculture and food security, and social economy. ESDC has been working in the field both emergency support to herders and livestock’s breeders, and herders community and livestock’s cooperatives development including women building capacities as women-based organization and individuals. Prioritised cross sector issues are gender equality, sustainable development and democracy. ESDC emphasizes community ownership and participation.

New Farm Company - Palestine

Initiative partner

New Farm Company is a private limited shareholding company. We are still owned by our founding members – a group of socially conscious agricultural cooperatives, the Peasants Union and three Palestinian NGOs, all dedicated to social and economic agricultural development. We are especially focused on helping rural women make a change and therefore women cooperatives are prioritized in eligibility for holding capital shares in the company. As such, we wish to ensure that these cooperative’s labour bear fruit.

Oxfam GB - United Kingdom

Initiative partner

Dora Cooperative Case-Rural Women Enterprise Model The Enterprise Development Program (EDP) used a holistic approach to developingfour rural agriculture production cooperatives as service providers to their members and community as a means for sustainable social, economic and enviornmental development. Cooperatives capacities were developed on the members, instituional and production levels, including linkages with marketing companies, while the cooperative received assistance in start up equipment, resulting in a sustainable production cycle. Through implementing good practices on all levels of the project, the project was able to improve the targeted cooperative members food security in a feasible and repliciable manner. As a model, and presented case for Expo, the Dora cooperative has become an exchange visit hub for other cooperatives and CBOs to learn from and exchange lessons learned and replicate the methodology for their CBO with the technical assitance of ESDC.

WIth the difficult economic situation of Palestine, lack of control of boarders for trade, and limited employment opportunities combined with minimal individual capital of women, this initiative provided economic innovation for women.

Through the initiative, the model, Dora cooperative increased the production capacity of maftoul from 800kg in 2012 to 10 tons in 2013 with the 13 part-time employees earning US$200 per month. Unique to this initiative is that while the capacities of the cooperative were developed, and production capacities improved through loans for equipments, the project linked the cooperative to local marketing company New Farm to ensure product international standards are met and therefor sales in the local and international markets created. An end result of the initiative is the distribution of about US$12,000 in dividends to their members as a result of their profits in 2013, after paying off equipment loans and operational costs.

Because Palestinians live under occupation and are under severe restrictions with limited control over their own resources and borders, combined with a decrease in humanitarian aid, a large percentage of Palestinians are food insecure (33%) or are vulnerable to food insecurity (16%), ed in: http://www.unrwa.org/newsroom/press-releases/food-insecurity-palestine-remains-high .

Cooperatives in Palestine, were previously created as a prerequistit for receiving financial or material aid from donors. Many cooperatives were therfore formed without a clear purpose or service for its members or community. So, when aid was no longer distributed throught cooperatives, they became idol and were not functioning, or were not functioning in relevence to their purpose. Many cooperatives in Palestine did/do not have a feasible economic aspect with contributes to the food insecurity in the country; the EDP program is an innovative project that corrects the role of cooperatives to combat food insecurity.

The results can be witnessed on at least three levels for the targeted cooperatives: organizational development, building production capacities and business development (chart 1).

As a result of the holistic approach, the cooperatives became self-relient and sustainable. They also became relevent to their mission providing services to their members and community that is within their scope. Further, through working on the three levels, the cooperatives were able to improve the financial situation of their members. Refering back to the case study of  Dura cooperative, the result of working on different levels is evident with their sharp increase in production and sales of maftoul (table 1).

The increase in sales of the cooperatives has a direct impact on their level of food security. With increased employment opportunities for women and increased profits for the cooperative, members are seeing the benifits through the earned divedends which translates to increased food security.


Targeted beneficiaries are women farmers groups organized through registered cooperatives, where members are women who are mostly heading their families or contributing to the family income to enhance their food security, health and education. Also, the targeted cooperative should have 20-50 members. All the the cooperatives are in Palestinian rural communities high food insecurity, mainly in the seam zones.
Many women have expressed the economic and social benefits of working groups.They have expressed that by joing groups, they can develop business plans for their ideas, tackle the issues of sourcing land and/or buying equipment, seed, and other inputs that they may not be able to afford if they ventured on theri own.  Further, through pooling their resources (financial and human) the women were able to make an impact of the food security of their families, while setting a prime example of collective work and women empowerment within the home and community enviornemnt.

The initiative was implemented by partners Economic and Social Development Center of Palestine (ESDC through funding from partner Oxfam GB. ESDC worked directly with the cooperatives at all levels and together with New Farm Marketing company when creating the marketing linkages. The initiative was implemented by two pecialist in the field from ESDC and Oxfam that are Community & Economic development specialist with support from both ESDC and Oxfam staff (table 2).

The structure focused on value chain development where new ideas can flourish and overcome barriers.

Main problems faced were technical problems in the cooperatives, where many of the cooperatives do not have the capacity to produce more marketable products due to volatility and instability at the level of quality standard due to lack of cash. Inability to purchase raw materials used in the production process often leads to raise production costs and reduce the profitability with the knowledge that many of the cooperatives are buying materials on credit  or in small quantities, which lead to increase production and transportation costs. The market gap is the period required to recover the price of cooperative products ranging from two months to six months.
This problem was solved through providing interest-free loans to cooperatives to fill the market gap.Loans were used to buy enough raw materials needed in the process, so that productivity (quantity and quality) has increased cooperatives income and consequently and increase in membership.

All cooperatives produce is preservatives free, some are organic products like tomatoes and its paste, olive products and other with very low controlled toxicity which is an environment friendly techniques.  Mostly handmade, job creation approaches are used avoiding the machines pollution. Also farms products are mostly organic, drip irrigated, naturaly fertilized using compost and digester fertilizers. Also the soil in the land has been treated by solirazation.

The EDP innitiative is sustainable, transferable and duplicable. Using a holistic approcah and developing the targeted cooperatives on the three levels of:organizational development, business developmed and production capacities. Through systemaizing the cooperative and standarizing the products while building the human capacities of the cooperative.
The approach can be easily duplicated with other cooperatives that may have a different product or business, but regardless, the initiative can be duplicated. Furthermore, ESDC creates synergies within its different projects through conducting exchange visits among cooperatives and other CBOs and working groups. The women are always willing to share information and transfer knowledge, especially with lessons learned and what did and did not work for the cooperative. The EDP experience can be replicated within other rural women cooperatives, so lonf as taking into consideration the relevence of each cooperative.

This initiative had no major promotional initiatives. Mostly the initiative linked the successful cooperatives of the EDP program with other cooperatives and CBOs from other projects as a means of education and lessons learned. It was realized that through bringing women together, they are able to frankly speak of what worked and what did not, while at the same time, gave room for rural women to discuss other ideas. Also, through these visits, the women created linkages where one cooperative could supply the other with needed materials for the cooperative and their members. Having said that, the initiative produced a short documentary that visited some of the more successful cooperatives of the initiative.
Also worth mentioning, local fairs were conducted where the rural women cooperatives were able to showcase their products to the general public and other cooperatives as well as major marketing companies in Palestine.