The vital role of women and youth entrepreneurs in creating resilient value chains in Yemen

June 27, 2024

Women training participants selling their products at a bazaar in Ash-Shiher district, Hadramout

UNDP Yemen / 2024

The United Nations General Assembly designated 27 June as Micro-, Small, and Medium-sized Enterprises Day (MSMEs) to raise awareness on their contributions to the achievement of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, local and national economies, and sustaining livelihoods.

Multiple simultaneous shocks and crises have altered the social and economic landscape globally, making MSMEs extremely vulnerable to rising inflation and value chain disruptions. Women- and youth-owned enterprises are often more exposed to external and internal shocks due to limited access to affordable finance, capacity-building support, partnership networks, and markets. This frequently stifles the growth of their businesses, confining many to informality or necessity entrepreneurship. Initiatives that strengthen capacities and support MSME development and entrepreneurship for women and youth need to be at the forefront to address these challenges.

Through targeted entrepreneurship training, advisory, grants and loans, UNDP’s Strengthening Institutional and Economic Resilience in Yemen (SIERY) Project, with funding from the European Union, empowers smallholders and small and medium-sized enterprises within the fish, henna, coffee, date, sesame, dairy, horticulture and wheat value chains. By enhancing the resilience of smallholders and small and medium-sized enterprises, conflicts, disasters, and epidemics will exert less impact on their functionality and these value chains viability will remain sustained. 

The support of the SIERY Project to strengthen the value chains extends beyond capacity building. Aligned with the development priorities of local authorities, the SIERY Project is also supporting the establishment of markets and export centers. This will strengthen local economic development, generate employment and income, improve food security and enhance access to local and international markets, which in return will bolster Yemen’s economy.

Fahima, holding her packaged pastries before delivering them to a workshop venue.

UNDP Yemen / 2024

Fahima, an entrepreneur from Ash-Shiher, Hadramout, and a former participant in tuna canning training supported by the SIERY Project, shares, “I partook in the training because I wanted to learn how to can tuna at home and increase my profit margin.”

Fahima’s pastry business is the sole source of income for her, her sister, and her daughter’s families. Prior to her enrollment in the training, she had to purchase cans of tuna to make the well-known Yemeni tuna pastries, which added up to a staggering 50 percent of her business costs.

Women participants at one of the tuna canning trainings.

UNDP Yemen / 2024

“I didn’t just learn how to can tuna, I gained financial and business development knowledge and skills that I apply in my business. These trainings bridged some knowledge, and skills gaps that other women, including myself, have been missing,” shared Fahima.

The training did not just offer technical tuna canning support to the forty women participants; it also offered capacity building in business continuity management, finance, accounting, and marketing. 

Fahima’s pastries packaged and ready to be delivered to a workshop venue.

UNDP Yemen / 2024

“I taught what I had learned to my sister and daughter. Now they are my business partners; they help me can tuna and make pastries,” remarked Fahima. Fahima’s support to her family includes her nephew, who delivers orders to workshop halls and wedding venues.

The SIERY Project’s support to the fish value chain in Hadramout extends to supporting Mukalla’s local authorities in establishing a fish export center. Anticipated to be ready for operation by the end of 2024, the center aims to support fisherfolk with proper and efficient fishing handling services and ensure product quality and compliance with international regulations, thus enabling access to global markets.

Latifa, Fatima and Nosaebeh presenting their products.

UNDP Yemen / 2024

Also in Hadramout, Latifa, Fatima, and Nosaebah ventured into their small henna enterprise after meeting at a henna production training supported by the SIERY Project in Ghail Bawazir.

A selection of the skin and hair care products that Latifa and her partners make.

UNDP Yemen / 2024

“The training built our capacity in henna making and helped us enhance the quality of our products and financial management knowledge. It also enhanced our soft skills and encouraged us to experiment with new ideas. For example, we don’t just sell henna for temporary tattoos, we make body and hair care products out of it,” shared Latifa. Indeed, henna’s astringent and antimicrobial properties make for great hair and skin care products.

Latifa and her partners in Ghail Bawazir.

UNDP Yemen / 2024

After completing the training, the three women received a small grant to kickstart “Al-Fatina,” or "The Charming" in English. The name of their small enterprise is a nod to the products they make using henna. 

Through the capacity building they received, the quality of their henna products increased, spiking the price of their products by 100 per cent and reducing product waste by 35 per cent. 

“We are able to make and sell our products from home, generating extra cash for our families,” added Latifa. While most of their sales occur via online orders, Latifa and her partners also participate in bazaars and other events to sell their products.      

In addition to the employment and livelihood opportunities these value chains hold, local production keeps cultural traditions alive and allows these sustainable practices to be passed down to future generations.

MSMEs hold the potential to transform economies, generate employment opportunities, and promote equitable economic growth if given adequate support. Highlighting their pivotal role and exploring opportunities for their further advancement is critical to fostering economic resilience.