Recovering Agriculture Activities and Livelihoods in Newly Liberated Areas

MERI has recently concluded a research project, sponsored by the UN’s Food & Agriculture Organisation (FAO), on agriculture and livelihoods in newly liberated areas of Iraq. The report covers data on Ninewa, Kirkuk and Salahadin. It focuses on four sectors: crops, livestock, fishery/aquaculture and livelihoods. The report identifies the main problems currently prohibiting the recovery of agricultural activities in the areas liberated from ISIS, and outlines concrete policy-recommendations for recovery in the short, medium and long-term (p. 60). The full report can be found here.

For many people in Ninewa, Kirkuk and Salahadin, the agriculture sector represents a vital part of their livelihoods. However, agriculture in these areas has been heavily impacted by the invasion of ISIS and the violence which followed. Restoring the sector is important to prevent further displacement of people and allow for the eventual return of IDPs. Moreover, agriculture does not only provide vital jobs and income; it also contributes significantly to Iraq’s total agricultural production. Restoring the sector is therefore not only important for local communities but also for the country as a whole.

“The overall importance of restoring agricultural activities and livelihoods across these areas is unquestionable – not only for the communities in these regions, but for Iraq as a whole,” FAO says in a statement releasing the report.

The findings of the report are based on numerous key informant interviews and focus-group discussions conducted in each of the districts and sub-districts. The interviews and focus groups were organised by local NGOs Muslim Aid and REACH Iraq. Despite difficult circumstances and limited access to the areas, they were able to gather unique and important field data central to this study. The data was then congregated, validated and analysed by MERI. This analysis was translated into a policy-report specifying the problems faced by farmers and recommendations for FAO’s response. Hence, the report is used by the FAO to increase its own understanding of the current situation, develop its programmes, and procure funding from international donors.

The main recommendations outlined in the report are:

1) Restore Crop Production

  • Provide direct support in the form of seeds, fertilizers, pesticides and enhanced land and machinery access to help restore crop production.
  • Provide temporary irrigation measures such as digging wells.
  • Support measures to restore market access.

2) Restore Livestock production

  • Provide animals to support restocking, especially sheep and poultry.
  • Provide emergency veterinary services including medicines
  • Direct provision of chicken feed
  • Improve safety and access to pastures

3) Revitalise fish production in Ninewa and Salahadin

  • Rehabilitate fish ponds
  • Direct provision of fish feed and medicines

4) Stabilise Livelihoods (In addition to the above actions which will assist livelihoods)

  • Support cash for work schemes
  • Help rebuild small and micro businesses through grants, affordable loans, market access measures

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About MERI:  The Middle East Research Institute is Iraq’s leading policy-research institute and think tank. It is an independent, entirely grant-funded not-for-profit organisation, based in Erbil, Kurdistan Region.  Its mission is to contribute to the process of nation-building, state-building and democratisation via engagement, research, analysis and policy debates.

MERI’s main objectives include promoting and developing human rights, good governance, the rule of law and social and economic prosperity. MERI conduct high impact, high quality research (including purpose-based field work) and has published extensively in areas of: human rights, government reform, international politics, national security, ISIS, refugees, IDPs, minority rights (Christians, Yezidis, Turkmen, Shabaks, Sabi mandeans), Baghdad-Erbil relations, Hashd Al-Shabi, Peshmarga, violence against women, civil society. MERI engages policy- and decision-makers, the civil society and general public via publication, focused group discussions and conferences (MERI Forum).

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