Peer review learning workshop kicks off an EJ community of practice in the MECIS region

In-house laboratories analyse the quality of oil providing traceability and defining value from each batch received.

This month, 38 staff and partners from across the MECIS region had frank, challenging and often humorous discussions around the theme of Oxfam’s economic justice (EJ) programming. This MECIS EJ Learning Event took place on March 17-20 in Ramallah, West Bank, Occupited Palestinian Territories. Taking Chatham house rules, the group of practitioners presented, debated and analysed our economic justice work in theory and practice. The workshop included a day of field visits across the West Bank, investigating how well cooperative structures function, the linkages and incentives between individuals, groups and private sector, the influence of operating environment and networks, and the search for trends and opportunities. 

 

The group examined how Oxfam’s frameworks fit with other approaches, how gender considerations affect what we do, and most importantly what we have learned individually, and as a group, over the last years of economic justice work. From the first day, the group seized the opportunity of the workshop to not only discover what other countries had done in EJ work, but also what they had learned about how to achieve results.

 

Globalisation at work - Cooperatives exporting Couscous from

Palestine to New Zealand

The Economic Justice program in the MECIS region represents a wide diversity of opportunities for food security and livelihoods. Our programmes have been addressing underlying causes of poverty through a range of interventions and strategies for leveraging wider change. Participants focused on systems thinking and the role of Oxfam and other stakeholders in promoting women’s economic leadership and power in markets.  Learning papers from Azerbaijan, Armenia, Georgia, Tajikistan and occupied Palestinian territories were presented under six themes of:  (i) innovative service delivery; (ii) new business models; (iii) influencing and investment; (iv) enterprise development; (v) resilience building and; (vi) measuring gender equality.

 

Tajikistan presented the challenge of fee-based agriculture extension services for smallholder farmers. The Azerbaijan case suggested that linking smallholder farmers with formal, global markets needs to address the issues of both scale and demand. The olive business model in the occupied Palestinian territory is to work effectively with private sector companies and find a market for alternative olive products produced by women (see this blog for more details). In the West Bank producer cooperatives increased profits by increasing production capacity, quality control, improving decision-making and strengthening their structure.        

                                                                                                        Women’s groups provide important economic and social                                                                                                                                           benefits, but must constantly innovate to stay                                                                                                                                                      relevant in a changing world.

 

The Georgian Alliance for Agriculture and Rural Development (GAARD) presents an exciting example of networking and policy advocacy for economic development that has the potential to develop agriculture and rural development policies and represent the needs of smallholder farmers. The Economic Recovery Program in the Gaza Strip is using campaigning to influence; the “buy local” campaign continues to raise awareness across the value chain, including individual consumers, of the benefits to the local economy of buying local products and, in particular, dairy products and fresh vegetables. 

Participants agreed that this style of peer review learning workshop has helped kick off a much more substantive EJ community of practice in the MECIS region. Such a community of practice, linked with professional training and cross-visit opportunities, is enabling Oxfam and its partners to develop new learning in both practice and theory on how to stimulate change that brings poor people, and especially women, out of poverty.

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