Jordan has one of the lowest rates of women’s economic participation in the world, with less than one fifth of women engaged in the workforce (USAID, 2019). A large proportion of women living in Jordan are ultimately left out of the labor market and most of these women (57%) are actively seeking employment opportunities (AICS, 2018).
Considering these challenges, through the project “the flower of the desert”, Habibi Valtiberina Association is supporting 12 vulnerable Jordanian women providing them professional training in producing Italian cheese in the desert of Karak, in south Jordan. A skilled and experienced artisan cheesemaker from Italy has trained and will continue to train the local women on the methods of making Italian-style ricotta and pecorino.
The site chosen – Karak – is characterized by diverse terrains of desert, mountains, and valleys, along with a captivating history, which makes it a popular destination in southern Jordan. These assets are a great source of economic activity and tourism.
The cheese facility in Karak was established in 2018 as a pilot project that is operated by the local priest and members of the community in Ader to produce Italian-style cheese: ricotta and pecorino using local sheep milk. These cheeses are used in dishes offered at the Mar Yousef’s Pizza based at, and owned by St Joseph’s Pastoral Church in Amman.
The support received by USAID in the beginning of 2020 gave a boost to the project, starting to create a new cheese production and training unit and supporting the creation of an income generating activity for vulnerable local women, as well as increase the touristic appeal of a region that can attract food enthusiasts.