Saliha is from Tajerouine, a city in the region of Kef with a population of 20,000. At only 29 years old, her strong personality and her passion for agribusiness led her to the promotion of prickly pears.
"The idea came to me during my second year in agricultural engineering at ESAK (Ecole Supérieure d’Agriculture du Kef),” explained Saliha. “Before then I didn’t know about the properties of prickly pears. The more I learned about this fruit, the more passionate about it I became."
Many people are still unaware of the precious oil obtained from the seeds of the prickly pear fruit. Rich in Vitamin E and antioxidants, this natural wonder is increasingly used in the cosmetic industry or as a dietary supplement. However, prickly pear seed oil production is very time consuming and laborious. A tonne of harvested fruit provides 25 kilograms of seeds, which only produces one litre of oil after cold extraction.
"After obtaining my engineering degree in 2014, I decided without hesitation to get into the challenge of agricultural entrepreneurship and move on to the first stage of my career: with the realization of the CEFE training," she said.
At the same time, Saliha entered a contest for young entrepreneurs in 2010 and won the first prize in "Best business plan" category, which encouraged her to move forward on this path.
To release her investment capital, she submitted her business plan to the BFPME (Banque de Financement des Petites et Moyennes Entreprises). In August 2014, she obtained her first funds and finally started her project. Despite not having all the machines needed, Saliha launched her business and managed to produce 13 litres of essential oil which she started marketing.
"Today I work mainly through networking. I have developed a partnership with several resellers that enable me to easily sell my production," Saliha explained.
With the support of the Mashrou3i Project organized by UNIDO and funded by USAID, the Italian Cooperation and the HP Foundation, Saliha is currently trying to obtain the organic certification to enable her to export internationally.
"This certification will be a turning point for my business and will enable me to significantly expand my production,” Saliha said. "When I present my product in exhibition fairs, such as the Agricultural fair at Kram in Tunis, the contact with foreign customers makes me feel confident in continuing and developing my business. It is through these consumers that I am aware of the wealth of my product and the importance of enhancing it. Despite all the work involved in collecting, producing and extracting, it is at this point that I realize my efforts are not in vain."
Saliha will also benefit from the support of the UNIDO Marketing and Communication Expert to improve her communication strategy and more specifically to improve her packaging and online communication.