Two rounds of grants were recently offered to support the promotion of local, sustainable entrepreneurship in the Negev. The grants were provided by the New Israel Fund as part of “Project
Wealth,” with the support of the European Union’s ENPI CBCMED. The first round, conducted in the year’s first trimester, was awarded to Project Wadi Attir’s, ‘Growing Traditional Bedouin Vegetables.’
The second round was held recently, and was awarded to the sewing workshop in the settlement of Tifrach. Each project was awarded a grant of 10,000 Euros.
These projects won the grants because their work combined the three elements of economy, society and environment, and because their activities are aimed towards making changes in the Negev and developing a sustainable local economy (SLE).
Growing Traditional Bedouin Vegetables, Wadi Attir
The Wadi Attir project, operating out of the village of Hura with the support of the local authority, is an innovative and inspiring enterprise. At the project’s center is a farm, the products of which will include herbs (for medicinal and culinary use), a mixed herd of sheep and goats, and the development of cosmetics and milk products. All this is accomplished using new, advanced technologies developed in an international sustainability lab in the U.S., where the project was conceived.
As part of this larger initiative, a smaller one was developed for growing traditional Bedouin vegetables, which combines the development of local economy with the promotion of women’s employment and promises an integration of the traditional and the modern. The goal of the initiative is first to generate a seed bank for the vegetables have long been (and still are) the natural products of the Negev’s soil, and which are part of the Bedouin culinary tradition. In the second phase, women will be trained to grow vegetables from these seeds and to sell them to consumers. At first they will be trained inside Wadi Attir’s farm, after which they will grow the vegetables in the gardens of their own homes. This will allow these women to increase their family’s income, while helping to preserve both the use of traditional vegetables and the Bedouin society’s story. Finally, the residents of the Negev will also benefit from healthy, organic vegetables bought directly from the farmers
The Tifrach Sewing Workshop
The sewing workshop project is led by the “Ma’avarim West Negev” employment center and the Orthodox Jewish settlement of Tifrach in the Merhavim regional authority. The settlement has difficulty integrating women into the job market, largely due to the lack of positions or work spaces that accommodate the lifestyle of the orthodox Jewish woman. The purpose of the project is to create a worthy alternative employment opportunity based on local forces and resources.
The workshop will operate inside the settlement, and as a first stage will provide sub-contractor sewing services for large manufacturers. In the next phase, the workshop plans to open a fashion line aimed exclusively at the Orthodox community, making evening gowns, bridal gowns, and additional clothing designed for Orthodox girls and women.
The project was conceived with an awareness of the resources available in the settlement. A significant number of women there already do sewing work from their homes, including a clothing designer who graduated from Shenkar .
The project currently employs eight women from the settlement.
Both of the two projects that were chosen are, each in its own way, examples of creative solutions to a similar economic challenge – culturally adapted employment. Developing employment initiatives based on local forces and resources, and designed to respond to local needs, increases the earning capacity of populations that had previously found earning difficult and thus moves the local economy forward.
The winning projects were selected by a public committee headed by Ms. Merav Mizrahi of the New Israel Fund, Mr. George Meyer, Honorary French Consul in Be’er Sheva, Dr. Safa Aburabiya of the Mandel Center for Leadership in the Negev, Mr. David Gappell, Director of Shusterman Foundation Israel, Ms. Yifat Hillel, manager of Joint Israel youth centers in the south, Mr. Efi Toledano, Manager of the “Asinu Esek” program, Zionism 2000, Uri Pinto, manager of the “Leha’ez” project in Ofakim, and Ziva Boksbaum, manager of the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews – Southern Region.