New project in Gaza employs women to make health products

Green Gold: Gaza natural products
4 min read
Gaza
16 August, 2021
Society: Gold Green is a new initiative based in Gaza, employing women to manufacture natural plant-based health products using traditional steam-distillation methods.

Gold Green is the name of a new project in Gaza, in which Palestinian women are employed to grow aromatic herbs and produce natural chemical-free products.

Rasha Ramadan works with her colleague Amani al-Fayrani sorting and washing the herbs for their use in the medicinal oils and health products, which will be sold in local markets as natural chemical-free products.

Rasha and Amani work alongside a team of women trained by the Al Najd Development Forum in Gaza to extract the plants’ natural oils before using them to make natural shampoos and other products.

100% natural from start to finish

The natural ingredients are the core component of the medicinal and aromatic products. Around 20 women are employed in growing and tending to the plants before they are harvested, and four women are tasked with washing the plants and carrying out the extraction process. Finally, the concentrated oils are used to manufacture the finished products.

The business helps the women to assist their husbands in providing a source of income for their families and overcome some of the difficulties faced due to the dire economic situation in the Gaza Strip, which has been under siege for 15 years

The business helps the women to assist their husbands in providing a source of income for their families and overcome some of the difficulties faced due to the dire economic situation in the Gaza Strip, which has been under siege for 15 years.

Al-Fayrani was chosen alongside her colleagues to start this project, after they had completed a number of specialist training courses on medicinal products and essential oil extraction methods. The project’s vision was to offer natural health products free from harmful chemicals.

Empowering women

She explained to Al-Araby Al-Jadeed, The New Arab’s Arabic-language sister publication that the project has given her a steady monthly income which has enabled her to help cover the family’s daily living expenses as well as allowing her to rely on herself for her personal expenses. She looks forward to expanding the project with her colleagues until their products become a household name.

Green Gold was kickstarted with a previous project in which the women took part in growing aromatic plants like mint, camomile, basil, purslane, thyme, rosemary, rocket and parsley among others. This paved the way for the next steps which would depend on the availability of fresh aromatic plants.

Steam distillation 

There are several stages in the process of manufacturing aromatic oils. Firstly, the plants must be carefully washed using special equipment. Then there are a series of steps carried out to extract the concentrated oils using steam distillation: the prepared plants are placed in a special device and immersed in filtered water, before being passed through a furnace where the temperature reached 100 degrees Celsius. Then the condensation process is started using another machine and the droplets of oil are extracted – these are then moved into a container for the concentrate.

The women make six kinds of shampoo, six kinds of balsam, as well as a camomile extract for washing and cleaning the skin, as well as manufacturing hair oils and an antiviral sanitiser made from alcohol infused with mint and thyme

The strength of the concentrate of the first sample will be checked immediately as it comes out, before the extract is put into plastic barrels, a separate one for each plant, ready to be used as the essential ingredient in a shampoo, oil or balsam. Then it is packaged and a label fixed on explaining the details of the product, its distinguishing properties and information on who it is suitable for.

The women make six kinds of shampoo, six kinds of balsam, as well as a camomile extract for washing and cleaning the skin, as well as manufacturing hair oils and an antiviral sanitiser made from alcohol infused with mint and thyme.

Rasha Ramadan explains that as well as enjoying working with the women, taking part in the project has been character building and has honed her skills. It has also helped her and her husband to provide for their family of seven.

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Al-Hamalawi says that the project initially had around 40 women working in planting, however, the difficulty of the situation in Gaza forced the project to reduce the production line and only keep 20 women, alongside the four working on manufacturing the products. They received training from a specialist in manufacturing medicinal and aromatic extracts.

Using medicinal oils and extracts brings many benefits, which differ from one plant to another, according to Al-Hamalawi: some of them work on nourishing and strengthening the hair and skin and protecting against damage, and others can be used to treat harmful fungal infections.

This is an edited translation from our Arabic edition. To read the original article click here.