Market vendors access wholesalers, boosting incomes in a more spacious and hygienic market

Date: Wednesday, May 6, 2020

The recently upgraded Zenien Market offers vendors and shoppers a uniquely hygienic and safe space to buy and sell fresh produce and other goods.

The recently upgraded Zenien Market offers vendors and shoppers a uniquely hygienic and safe space to buy and sell fresh
produce and other goods. Photo: UN Women/Ahmed El-Nakabassi

When you step into the newly renovated Zenien Market in the centre of the Giza Governorate, you’ll find neatly arranged clothes and stalls brimming with a colourful assortment of fresh fruits and vegetables. The market’s physical structure and product display are decidedly different from other markets in the area, which are crowded and randomly organized with narrow pathways.

Prior to its renovation, Zenien used to be dingy, lacking in safety and barely distinguishable as a market by passersby. That is, until UN Women partnered with the National Council for Women (NCW) and Giza Governorate to reclaim and upgrade the space through a gender-sensitive redesign, to offer a safe and decent working environment for women, who represent 65 per cent of all Zenien vendors.

Since its official opening in October 2019, one of the main challenges facing fruit and vegetable vendors was the ability to buy their products in bulk, at discounted prices, which resulted in low monthly incomes. To address this concern, UN Women collaborated with two Egyptian agribusiness firms – Daltex Corporation and Blue Nile for Agricultural Development – to empower women vendors economically.

In March, each produce vendor at Zenien was given 350 kg of free inventory of a wide variety of fruit and vegetables. The goal: to help increase women’s income and leverage their ability to use earnings from the sales of their free inventory to restock by purchasing future products in bulk from wholesalers, at discounted prices.

Vendors also learned how to calculate their capital and profit margins, which they will use to keep their business running by buying new products from the wholesale market and from Daltex. Since then, vendor’s monthly income has already increased by around 500 EGP in addition to having their own capital.

“We used to buy our products from the Saft Market [local market] and the prices were expensive,” explains Ganat, one of the participating women produce vendors at Zenien. “Since we started getting our products from the 6th of October [wholesale] market, our situation is much better. We now have financial capital and our incomes have increased.”

Linking women with the wholesale market and agribusiness firms was an essential step to allowing them to keep their business running while enhancing their monthly incomes and standard of living, which has positively impacted entire families.

“We benefited from the vegetables that were offered [by the agribusiness firms] and now we have capital and we buy additional inventory. It has helped us in increasing our income and in running our business,” explained Sabah, another woman vendor at Zenien Market.

Amid the outbreak of COVID-19, the market represents an important source of economic security for vendors at a time when many are unable to continue working. It is also contributing to local food security at a time when global food production chains face disruption. Given the outbreak of COVID-19, UN Women has been closely monitoring the situation in the market and coordinating with Giza Governorate and the NCW to address any related challenges that could negatively impact vendors. However, the consensus is that the market now offers a decidedly safer option due to the redesign project.

Funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), the market renovation included ensuring the market had proper ventilation and waste disposal, as well as lighting, running water, electricity and sanitation facilities. These changes have made it one of the most hygienic open-air options to buy fresh local produce in the area. The market’s physical area was also expanded, opening nearly twice as much space for shoppers – an important change in light of the need for social distancing.

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