Sometimes, all that is needed for people to fulfill their potential is to meet someone who recognizes that potential. Esraa Al Zoubi, a mother of four children, was a very traditional housewife who never thought about being an income generator and someone who hardly left her home. For Esraa, her introduction to BookAgri’s own Rudaina Haddad was a major turning point in her life. She was first introduced to BookAgri through her involvement with Al Murjan Charitable Society in Balqa where she attended some events organized by them to improve her general knowledge and learn new skills.
Rudaina met with the women at the society to hold a lecture series on successful business practices as well as share her personal experiences, highlighting her passion to work with farmers who could host unique tourist experiences to drive small business growth. Esraa initially suggested that her neighbour had the potential to host tourists on their farm, but Rudaina felt that Esraa better met the requirements. This marks the beginning of their relationship and the start of Esraa’s journey as a small business owner. Rudaina’s mentorship has proved invaluable, as Esraa received training on product quality, packaging, branding, pricing products, hospitality, safe food handling and presentation of agritourism activities.
The first group of tourists that she hosted with Bookagri arrived in March 2017, but inclement weather forced her to move the activities indoors which hampered the overall experience.of making zataar and baking manakish. This put doubts in her mind as to whether her business would be successful. Luckily, her second group of tourists faired much better as there was better weather. In fact, that same group visited two to three more times afterwards. Two years later, with support from MEDA, Bookagri assisted Esraa in installing a canopy as well as tables, chairs, and a stove to provide a more comfortable experience for her guests as she engages them in making manakish in her garden. Manakish is a popular Levantine food consisting of dough topped with oregano or thyme, cheese, or ground meat – similar to a pizza, it can be sliced or folded, and it can be served either for breakfast or lunch.
Before, Esraa used to take money from her husband, but now she has her own income of approximately 300 JOD (CAD $558) per month. Moreover, she supports her neighbour by purchasing oregano plants from them from which she produces zaatar that she sells after tourist’s experience the making of zaatar and manakish.
“I have also begun selling my products, such as oregano, sumac, sesame, and other herbs in Amman,” Esra’a stated proudly. Esraa notices that she is much more confident around people and more inclined to go out despite social customs. Her family, including her husband, mother-in-law, and four children, have shown extraordinary support to Esraa and have begun helping Esraa in her business operations. Her husband’s attitude has notably changed noticing that Esraa has been taking on more responsibility and independence. Esraa remarks: “I am not the same person. I am surprised with the new ideas that I can come up with.”
In 2019, Esraa received an invitation from the Vegetable and Fruit Exporters Union to participate in an agricultural fair in Qatar (through Bookagri linkages), where she presented on the accomplishments of herself and other women from her community. As a result of her participation and showing the potential of growing with Bookagri she has received a grant from the Jordan Enterprise Development Corporation (JEDCO) which allowed her to plant 5000 oregano seedlings. In the future, Esraa plans on building a production kitchen that is separate from her current kitchen and which will allow her to recruit other women in her community to earn an income through her business.