Rome, June 18 (IANS/AKI) A 15 million euro European Union grant to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation will aid farmers in northern Iraq’s Nineveh province – once the country’s ‘breadbasket’ – recover from the damage to their livelihoods caused by devastating conflict and displacement, FAO said in a statement on Monday.
“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, the EU’s ambassador to Iraq.
This project is expected to directly benefit almost 10,000 vulnerable farming families (around 60,000 people) and to benefit local service providers and labourers in the area, which includes Mosul. The city remains in ruins two years after the Islamic State jihadist group’s defeat there in July 2017 after months of fighting that left thousands of civilians dead and forced over a million people to flee their homes.
“We are grateful to the EU 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 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 stabilisation,” Sinaceu said.
Since IS’s defeat, many people have returned to the area, encouraged by international efforts to ensure a secure and safe environment. But some areas still lack basic services and job opportunities for both returnees and those who remained, FAO noted.
The EU-funded project aims to restore vital government infrastructure and support services to the agriculture sector that have been destroyed, damaged, or looted, FAO underlined.
The toll of the conflict has taken on local agriculture includes damage to food supplies, water systems, irrigation facilities and other agricultural infrastructure and losses of personal assets, crop and livestock production, FAO said.
The project will help smallholder farmers to diversify their incomes, increase their resilience and provide their families with nutritious and healthy diets, FAO underlined.
Vulnerable smallholders will 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 under the project.
Women, in particular, will get support to take part in home-based vegetable and dairy production and processing, said FAO.
The project will encourage jobless young agriculture graduates to benefit from training to find 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, according to FAO.
The UN estimates more than half of Mosul’s youths are without work.
The project to help farmers in Nineveh is part of a total 184.4 million euros the EU has given since 2016 to initiatives to help Iraq’s government to stabilise the country and provide humanitarian assistance to its population, FAO said.