A group of female entrepreneurs in South Lebanon chose International Women’s Day to realize a long cherished dream. As part of the Deir Kanoun Ras el Ain cooperative, they make rosewater, apple vinegar, orange sauce, apricot jam, crackers and tomato paste — all without artificial preservatives.But without electrical power, the work is arduous and the money they earn is modest. On March 8, witht he heolp of 12 students and volunteers from Palestine, Lebanon, and Syria, they completed the installation of a solar power facility that will provide them with a regular and reliable source of power.
Before this date, the women were bedeviled in their efforts by an erratic power supply from the local utility grid or had to deal with the cost and the pollution of a diesel generator. Last year the group of 23-women decided it was time for change. Together with Greenpeace Mediterranean – Arab World, they launched a crowdfunding project to install solar power. The electricity would be used to heat water and power the machines that knead the dough and squeeze the fruit.
“I can feel that everything is about to change for us,” says Daad Ismail, President of the women’s cooperative. “Electricity shortages have hurt our productivity, our working hours, and our personal lives. We know that solar energy will not only help us to cut bills, generate more income, and improve our lives, it will also broaden our horizons with new opportunities.” With a supply of clean renewable energy now in place, the cooperative is being approached by environmentally conscious food markets who want to feature their products.
Greenpeace provided training for the students and volunteers, all of whom live in the area, some in refugee camps. Now that they have participated in the solar installation, they have practical experience to go with their classroom training which should assist them in finding jobs in the growing solar energy sector in their area. The solar system is comprised of 12 solar panels with a total peak output of 3 kilowatts. When combined with energy efficiency measures such as LED lights, thermal insulation, and a solar water heating system, the group’s annual electricity bill could be slashed by two thirds and reliance on their diesel generator reduced to a minimum.
Greenpeace is quick to point out that the story of Deir Kanoun Ras el Ain cooperative is just one of many solar initiatives across the Arab world spearheaded by women. These success stories show how renewable energy can fill people with a sense of power and confidence. Success stories like these are inspiring communities around the world to break free from fossil fuels and switch on the sun.
The only sad note in this story is that none of these women nor any of the students and volunteers who helped with the project would be allowed into the United States thanks to the paranoid delusions of Donald Trump and his minions. America has turned its back on the world, preferring to cower in fear rather than embrace the power of diversity. America will pay a heavy price for its campaign to paint most of the world’s population as terrorists, rapists, murderers, and drug dealers. America could learn valuable lessons from these women, but it can’t if it closes its eyes and ears and hearts to those who could teach us so much.