Haitham is an Iraqi farmer from the village of Tobzawa in Bashiqa district, Ninewa Governorate. When ISIL attacked the village in 2014, his life quickly spiraled: "The events of 2014 caused immense devastation and damage to all our property and agricultural areas," he said.
Haitham and his family were forced to flee to Erbil's Daratu district, where they experienced many difficulties.
"I mean, we are five brothers who live in one house and work together. With all five of our families, we number about 30," he continued. Feeding and keeping a roof over the heads of 30 people is no easy feat in the best of times, let alone in the midst of displacement.
Haitham and his family farmed and produced different crops on their land for many years. Even before the emergence of ISIL, the family faced several persistent challenges, including competition from foreign products that made it difficult for them to sell their goods.
Indeed, agricultural producers in Iraq are mainly made up of small family-run farms in rural areas, that often lack the capital to expand their production and linkages to the sector’s value chains, and struggle to compete with bigger farms and imports. Access to electricity is also a challenge. Haitham explains, “Our main problem both before and after the events of ISIL was the lack of electric power, which is necessary to operate the water pumps that we use to spray and water our crops.”
But Haitham doesn’t take things lying down, and he was determined to rebuild his farm and start a new life. With grants provided by IOM Iraq, Haitham established an electricity system for his land, powered by 70 solar panels – a climate-smart response to the lack of electricity access, which is especially timely as Iraq faces a major climate crisis.
He then began to plant a variety of crops in high demand in the Iraqi market. He even hired six employees to help him around the farm and purchased two tons of potato and yellow corn seeds to plant. His farm, once devastated, is now thriving.
The aims to improve access and linkages to existing value chains for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in all stages of agri-business, from production to final retailers. The approach is informed by value chain analyses based on IOM assessments conducted in targeted areas.
Haitham's farm is one of the 158 SMEs that have been selected thus far to participate in EDF-a. It is estimated that 220 female job seekers will access jobs created as a result of these EDF grants, and that 1400 formal jobs in the agri-business sector will be created by the end of the project. Haitham's success story is a testament to the effectiveness of small-scale grants in contributing to job creation, post-conflict economic recovery and inclusive, sustainable development of the Iraqi agricultural sector. EDF-a helped Haitham rebuild his farm and start a new life. He was able to provide for his family and create jobs for others in his community.
The EDF programme continues to support livelihoods in Iraq at the community level through private sector revitalization and economic development by targeting SMEs. EDF provides financial capital to SMEs in economic sectors with a high demand for labour, addressing the critical gap that limits the capacity of businesses to expand and hire new workers, making it possible for SMEs like Haitham's Farm to flourish despite the challenges they face.
These activities were made possible thanks to support from the European Union.