The July War of 2006 was swift and decimated towns and villages. An estimated 1,200 people, mostly Lebanese, were killed in the 34 days of fighting with Israeli forces.  More than one million Lebanese citizens were displaced.

In its prosperous years before the war Lebanon was known as the “Switzerland of the East”. But in the south during the war many villages were badly hit. Some areas were forced to be abandoned because they were littered with Israeli land mines.

One town, Deir Kanoun Ras El Ein, had been home to an eight year old women’s cooperative. Started by 12 female members, the cooperative manufactured food products for the local community. “After the 2006 war the cooperative was almost destroyed, it was so damaged,” remembers Daad Ismael, who runs the cooperative.

With the help of funds from the United Nations Development Program the members began to rebuild. “They [the women members] wanted to rebuild it, they insisted that they rebuild,” explains Ismael.

In the town of Deir Kanoun Ras El Ein a sesame bread called Mallet El Smeed is eaten.

With the help of outside funding the cooperative, now 23 women strong, invested in commercial equipment and now produces Mallet El Smeed in sufficient quantities to allow it to be distributed throughout Lebanon and in other countries. “The cooperative is know all over Lebanon, in Beirut, in Tripoli,” says Ismael. “The cooperative is also known in Tunis and Italy.”

“We only used to do it in the village, and now they spread it all over Lebanon and Italy,” says Ismael proudly.

Story from “Building a Better World: 100 stories of co-operation“, published by the ICA.