Iraq’s breadbasket gets a $15 million EU grant in agriculture

refugee shelters

Iraqis as refugees, Iraqis as victims of ISIS, Iraqis as victims of climate change. Some help on the way to get a leg up on the problem in agriculture.

Farming families in northern Iraq’s Nineveh Governorate (the setting of the Jonah and the Whale biblical story!) will benefit from a European Union contribution of €15 million to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations to recover agricultural livelihoods. The area, which includes the city of Mosul, was known as the country’s ‘breadbasket’ before conflict caused widespread damage and displacement. 

This project is expected to directly benefit almost 10,000 vulnerable farming families (around 60,000 people), as well as flow-on benefits for local service providers and labourers. 

Stanton - HONY Iraq

Iraqis need subsidies to fix their farms.

Some Iraqis are turning to new crops not dependant on arable land, like these mushroom farmers. There have also been plans to rehabilitate the Iraqi marshlands

“As part of the EU’s commitment to the whole of Iraq, supporting the regions so tragically devastated by the recent conflict remains a high priority. By reviving agriculture in Nineveh, a key sector of the economy, this new project will help communities and returnees in rural areas, increasing their income and employment opportunities,” said Ramon Blecua, European Union Ambassador to Iraq. 

“We are grateful to the European Union for this generous contribution to help us rehabilitate key agricultural facilities and equipment. Getting these services operational again will be a big help for farmers and local businesses,” said Mustapha M. Sinaceur, FAO Representative a.i. in Iraq. “Creating jobs in the heartland of agriculture, where so many jobs depend on the rich soils of Nineveh Governorate, is vital for community stabilization,” he said.  

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Iraqis bake bread for the army


The impact of conflict on the agricultural sector has been devastating and includes damage to water systems, irrigation facilities and other agricultural infrastructure, disruption of value chains and losses of personal assets, crop and livestock production, and food supplies. 

Since the Iraqi government announced the defeat of Islamic State, also known as Da’esh, a year ago, many people have returned, encouraged by the efforts to ensure a secure and safe environment. However, some areas still lack basic services and job opportunities for both returnees and those who remained. 

FAO and the EU working together for family farmers 

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Iraqi farmers at the market



The EU-funded project supports smallholder farming families to diversify incomes, increase resilience, and provide nutritious and healthy diets. 

The project will support vulnerable smallholder farmers to resume vegetable production, introduce efficient irrigation water use and management, encourage agri-food processing, improve small-scale dairy processing and marketing, and boost animal fodder production and conservation. 

Women, in particular, will be supported to participate in home-based vegetable and dairy production and processing. Unemployed young agriculture graduates will be encouraged to benefit from training to gain employment as agri-food processors, farmer field school and farmer business school facilitators, community animal health workers, market information system operators, and food security and nutrition data collectors and analysts. 

Together, these activities will respond to families’ immediate needs for food and essential non-food items as well as restoring agricultural livelihoods that generate income and employment over the longer term. 

At the same time, the project aims to restore vital government infrastructure and support services to the agriculture sector that have been destroyed, damaged, or looted. 

The project is an EU contribution to the UN’s Recovery and Resilience Programme (RRP) in Iraq. It is part of a larger package of support (€ 184.4 million euros) the EU has contributed to support stabilization and humanitarian efforts undertaken by the UN in support of the Government of Iraq since 2016. 

FAO’s response in Iraq 

Under the Iraq Humanitarian Response Plan 2019, FAO is working to ensure rural families have the resources to re-establish and secure their agricultural livelihoods and build their resilience into the future. FAO’s work, in close coordination with the Iraqi government, supports families returning to retaken areas, internally displaced families, host communities and refugees from Syria.

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