Al Atayeb (The Delicacies), a women-led Lebanese cooperative based in the city of Kfardebian, north of Beirut, specializes in the production of local and traditional Lebanese foods, such as citrus marmalade, jam of fruit, fruit paste and the famous Lebanese Makdous (eggplant marinated in oil).
The 13 women who make up the cooperative each receive a share of the profits, as well as a salary, from their work preparing and processing food. Local farmers who sell their crops also benefit.
Al Atayeb Cooperative
“My way of empowering women”
“Teaching food processing skills was my way of empowering women», declares Samira Zoughaib Akiki, the president of Al Atayeb. It also gave me power, since I was surrounded by generous and visionary women”.
Ms. Akiki started in the food industry about two decades ago, running food processing workshops and training sessions for women. This experience led her and her colleagues to form Al Atayeb as a cooperative, create employment opportunities and ensure that all members would share in the success of the business.
When Lebanon’s economic crisis was aggravated by the COVID-19[feminine] pandemic, Ms. Akiki learned that UN Lebanon was providing essential support to cooperatives like Al Atayeb.
“The UN provided monthly salaries for the women to maintain their income, the oil and sugar that we use to produce our food, and the jars needed to preserve the products,” says Ms. Akiki. “It met our financial needs, rebuilt our capital and made up for our losses: we were able to resume our activities at a time when many businesses were closing.”
In total, UN Lebanon supported 94 cooperatives from different villages in Lebanon such as Deir Al Ahmar, Fneidek, Qana, Harissa and Lehfed, with a focus on women. This support took the form of cash for work and in-kind support such as raw materials, equipment and tools. At least 6,000 people have benefited from the $4.4 million project, funded by German Development Bank KfW, through the United Nations Development Programme.
The Al Atayeb cooperative has been a key factor in helping many Kfardebian families survive the crises, making the women proud of themselves and their community. “Our cooperative represents the values in which we believe,” Mrs. Akiki proudly continues. “We work with passion. We help our community and serve the public good“.