Farmer-to-Farmer volunteer helps Moroccan Women’s Cooperative to enter global markets

For over three decades, the USAID Farmer-to-Farmer Program has helped farmers and agribusinesses in developing countries raise incomes and adopt new technologies.

ACDI/VOCA was the original Farmer-to-Farmer Program implementer. We have mobilized more than 12,000 volunteers to more than 130 countries.

From improving cooperative management in Ethiopia and establishing a community loan fund in Kazakhstan to developing municipal infrastructure projects in Bolivia, our volunteers have delivered real impact around the world at a fraction of the cost. The story below from 2013 illustrates the power of volunteerism and the difference it makes in peoples’ lives.

Marketing Expert From California Equips Moroccan Cooperative For Success

Les Femmes de Marrakech is a women’s handicraft cooperative in Morocco that specializes in sewing and embroidery. In June 2013, Farmer-to-Farmer volunteer Lyn Nelson, a design and marketing expert from California, arrived in Marrakech to advise the cooperative on how to improve their production quality.

She soon realized that the women already produced impeccable pieces. What they needed most was to expand their product line, diversify their color palettes, and tailor their designs to make them more appealing to international customers.

Lyn started by visiting local museums, markets, and gardens for inspiration. Together with the members of the cooperative, they took pictures of symbols, designs, and colors to incorporate into the designs.

As Marrakech is one of Morocco’s most popular tourist destinations, Lyn helped create color schemes that captured its unique appeal through its history, traditions, and culture.

Together, they developed new designs and products, including a new “market bag.” After only two weeks of Lyn’s assistance, the cooperative sold 30 new products from their local storefront alone.

To promote the cooperative’s products to international buyers, ACDI/VOCA held an event for more than 100 participants at the end of Lyn’s assignment. The “market bag” was an instant success.

“All of the ‘market bags’ were sold. We were very pleased!” – Saida Chaobouni, Les Femmes De Marrakech President.

But something even more important happened that day. Victor Gonzalez, a lavender producer and owner of Victor’s Lavender, based in Sequim, Washington, was among the event participants.

He was so impressed with the quality and uniqueness of the pieces that he made a wholesale order with a custom request for lavender fabric and flower embroidery.

He ordered more than 200 bags, keychains, and necklaces, totaling approximately USD 1,500. This represented nearly 20 percent of the cooperative’s annual sales.

Victor displayed these products at the annual Sequim Lavender Festival where 90 percent of the merchandise sold within three days.

From the beginning, Les Femmes de Marrakech possessed exceptional talent, product quality, and ambition, but, thanks to volunteer assistance, they broadened their product line, reached a global market, and dramatically increased sales.

Today, Les Femmes de Marrakech still sell a wide variety of products and showcase the fine work of Marrakech’s female artisans.

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