“I feel independent, and it is such a gift to learn this profession.”
Belqees Al Shar’abi is a 51-year-old mother of four and resident of Sabr village in Tuban District of Lahj Governorate, in Yemen. She and her husband share responsibility for the family’s income which is why she first began processing small quantities (20 litres of milk per day) of dairy products along with other female farmers in her village.
“I was lucky to be one of the 11 female farmers selected under the Enhanced Rural Resilience & Food Security in Yemen Joint Programme (ERRY II JP)” said Belqees. The programme is co-funded by the European Union (EU) and the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida) and implemented by FAO. It supports rural female farmers in improving the dairy value chain through the rehabilitation of processing units that are equipped with essential tools to improve productivity and income.
Belqees, the head of the Sabr dairy processing group explains, “before joining the program, we were processing small quantities because people in the village didn’t know us well and that caused mistrust between us and the farmers who refused to provide us with the milk we needed at first, but later, everything changed for the better.” She added, “before the program, I hardly knew anything about dairy production or the cleanliness required while handling dairy products and cattle, but now I am capable of running the dairy processing unit and train other beneficiaries.” In addition, “I have learned marketing skills and that made me able to better communicate with others; now everyone in my village knows me as a dairy producer,” she said.
With 70 litres of milk, Belqees and the other group members produce 70 items a day, including yogurt, cheese, and ghee – clearing a net profit of USD 450 per month. They save most of the money they make, as they plan to expand their activities in the future.
“I have a dream and my dream is to run my very own dairy processing business,” says Belqees. For others working in the dairy processing unit, they hope to reach larger markets, increasing production and making more money to support their families.
Supporting Resilient Livelihoods and Food Security in Yemen Joint Programme (ERRY II), is a 3 years programme financed by EU and Sida, will be implemented in Yemen by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), International Labour Organization (ILO), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and World Food Programme (WFP) sixteen (16) districts in six vulnerable governorates: Hajjah, Hodeidah, Lahj, Abyan, Taiz and Sana’a.