I dream about flying over Jabal Al Natheef by helicopter and see a façade of green plants and herbs, where all the residents’ roof terraces are filled with green plants, tomato stems and fragrant herbs; These are the words the young entrepreneur apprentice, 19-year old Dawood Mansour, uses to describe his vision for the future of his hometown 'Jabal Al Natheef located in Eastern Amman.
"In Amman, there are no green areas where it´s allowed to grow your own vegetables. There is a high population density. We wish to challenge that so it is possible for people to grow their own vegetables at home." - he says.
'Nabte & Tanke' (translated 'Plants & Boxes') - is the name of their new entrepreneur project that Dawood and his friends have kickstarted to support the most vulnerable residents of the marginalized and densely populated district in Eastern Amman Jabal Al Natheef to eat organic.
The city district accommodates an unofficial Palestinian refugee camp 'Mohammad Amin' with a population of 54,000. Jabal Al Natheef today faces many challenges in the form of a high population density, high unemployment and a high proportion of drop-outs among school students.
Without experience the young people threw themselves at the project only after a few weeks of training in ActionAid's entrepreneur program in the Middle East, where they won the entrepreneurship competition for the best idea. Walaa Al Jallad and Nedaa Kharoub were responsible for the training that took place at Global platform in Amman, Jordan. After few weeks the team was both able to analyze and provide solutions for a current social problem:
"In Amman, there are many falafel restaurants and pizzerias that have a surplus of used tin boxes, which just get thrown out after use. We want to exploit the redundant containers to plant various vegetables and herbs. So we want to transform the scrap that flows in the restaurants back rooms, to organic and environmentally friendly products, such as the community needs." - tells Ahmad Shaheen, 19, who alongside the entrepreneur project studies to become a mechanical engineer.
He believes that the project is environmentally friendly and a 'renewable' business idea, which will transform the Jabal Al Natheef district to a green and attractive area with beautifully planted roof terraces and organic food plants in the windowsills: "For us it's not about selling as many as possible boxes to start with, but rather to break the stereotypes people have - and teach them about the importance of ecology. In particular, we will help vulnerable households to afford organic products, they usually can not afford and generally become more self-sufficient. It will save them for the additional costs monthly." - tells Dawood.
"It's not just enough to give people a plant in their hands and tell them that they need to water it. It is important that the boxes have a beautiful and welcoming design, making it easier for people to adopt the idea. That’s why we pain the tin cans and decorate them before selling them." - says Haya Abu Awad, 20, which accentuates the importance the design the boxes get.
The nicest part of working on the project for all participants is that it has changed their views fundamentally on many things:
"Today I reflect often on how businesses are structured and when I walk into a supermarket, for example, I do no longer notice the goods, but more whether the owner makes money on his business" - says Dawood.
Haya shares the same enthusiasm for the personal as well as professional development, the project has brought with it: “Now I have leaned how to create something out of nothing. It’s like a dream comes true, to be able to support my local community and help vulnerable women and families.” - says Haya.
Information is for all three participants an essential part of the project, as knowledge engages people more in growing their own vegetables. According to Dawood the vegetables you buy in the market contain chemicals and you never know what you put in your kitchen. But with the first project in the city to promote organic food, it’s now possible for ordinary normal people to grow their own vegetables that are organic and healthy.
"In the future, we will create a 'Whatsapp group' where we can guide people how to grow their own herbs and tomato plants in their tin boxes" - explains Haya who sees it as a priority that residents who buy the boxes get provided with regular updates and getting better with time.
For both Haya, Dawood and Ahmad it is not important with fast results but to see the change in the long term. After weeks of training and participating in ActionAid’s entrepreneurship competition they won with their idea of organic vegetables. Now they are implementing their project after receiving financial support from ActionAid of 1013 JOD for six months. I this period all of the young entrepreneurs dream to make the project sustainable with the support and advice through ActionAid's entrepreneurship cluster.
ActionAid Arab Regional Region has been supporting several social entrepreneurship groups in the region through the last few months. The teams that came up with the best entrepreneurship ideas to solve social problems in their communities received financial support by ActionAid. Through the regional social entrepreneurship cluster, ActionAid aims to harness youth leadership to address injustice and poverty across the Arab Region. The projects are done in partnership with 'Ruwwad Al Tanmiya' in Jabal Al Natheef which is a non-profit community development organisation that seeks to empower youth through education, volunteerism and grassroots organising.