At the age of 24, Bayan Ikteit, the owner of “Amal Ecological Farm”, may be one of the youngest members of the Business Women Forum (BWF) and OBADER project. Bayan, who started her journey as a young activist in her village of Raboud to the south of Hebron, was always keen to follow her dream. “Farming is my happiness,” she says.
Bayan’s business idea started in 2018 when she took a course in organic farming and was encouraged to start a home garden that produced healthy vegetables on 200 square meters next to her house, yielding more than the family needed. This enabled Bayan to sell some of her products. Her home garden became one of the few successful ecological farms in the southern West Bank. The early lockdown in April and May 2020 due to COVID-19 was a nightmare for others but a great opportunity for Bayan. She became a reliable source of vegetables in her community, which encouraged her to develop and grow her idea into a larger business and to include a nursery to produce seedlings, organic compost, and home-processed food.
Bayan was able to overcome numerous challenges and major obstacles with the support of her family. “My father trusted me,” she says “my father agreed to allow me to do my project on his land using a ‘plantation arrangement’ that he insisted on being registered with a lawyer. It states that I own two-thirds of the profit while my family takes one-third. This allowed me to register at the local chamber of commerce and enabled me to participate in two marketing exhibitions where I displayed my fresh and processed products.”
To be truly independent, Bayan was in need of technical assistance and the financial means to build a greenhouse and an irrigation water well. She therefore joined Business Women Forum’s (BWF) capacity-building program, offered through the OBADER project. Here, Bayan received advanced training on business planning, digital marketing, and risk management. In addition, she received technical support and a grant that allowed her to prepare 700 square meters of land for ecological farming. Through this support, Bayan has managed to increase her production capacity.
“The new land will support my family as well,” she says, “by creating a new business opportunity through working with my brother who graduated from university and is still unemployed.” While this pattern of a family-run business is not unusual and is part of the enabling ecosystem, young women like her will eventually need independent financing sources and proper financial management systems to avoid the risk of a male member of the family taking over the business and to ensure that family support is properly paid.
While Bayan still does not own her land and relies on family members to help carry out extra chores, her story shows how women’s empowerment and the shared control of resources and decision-making are the first steps to any transformation and success.