IFAD develops its first country programme in Iraq

Written by: Mia Madsen

Participants at IFAD-Iraq high-level meeting in Amman, Jordan.
©IFAD/M. Madsen

The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) is developing its first country programme in Iraq. IFAD's Near East, North Africa and Europe Division (NEN) has concluded a high-level consultation meeting in Amman, Jordan,  where a roadmap for IFAD investment in Iraq was discussed.

The meeting included representatives from Iraq's Ministry of Agriculture at the Central and Governorate level, Ministry of Water Resources, Iraqi universities and research institutions, as well as other international partners working in Iraq including the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA), the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the Italian Cooperation and others. All participants and Iraqi stakeholders contributed directly to the outcome: the priorities for the Country Strategy Note and the key elements of the first IFAD project to be developed in the country.

Working in fragile situations

"The first step in the partnership between IFAD and Iraq has been very positive. We had frank productive discussions during the meetings and now have a clear idea of issues related to production and constraints in the agricultural sector in Iraq," said Ahmad Bamarni, Ambassador of Iraq to Italy.

The IFAD-Iraq high-level meeting was held in Amman, Jordan, 18-20 October 2016.  Opening the  meeting,  Khalida Bouzar, Director of IFAD’s Near East, North Africa & Europe Division (NEN), stated that IFAD's  engagement in Iraq is part of the agency’s strategy to work in fragile situations.

"This meeting is an opportunity for us to discuss the priorities and main strategies for future investment in Iraq. Hopefully in the future we can hold similar meetings in Iraq," said  Bouzar.
IFAD's engagement with Iraq and the development of the country programme, are aligned with and build on, the IFAD fragile situations strategy. IFAD will work to build resilience of target communities in post-conflict environments like in Iraq, in a participatory manner through partnerships with local and international organizations, and maintain a clear focus on gender and targeting of the poorest and most vulnerable communities.

"We look forward to activating a programme in the agriculture sector which needs new technologies to improve and develop crop and livestock productivity. We believe that agriculture and food organizations like IFAD and FAO are important partners. They have highly reputed experts in agriculture and rural development," said Dr. Kutaiba Mohammed Hassan, Director-General, Department of Planning and Monitoring, Ministry of Agriculture, Iraq.

Abdelkarim Sma, NEN Regional Economist, presented the IFAD Strategic Framework and Operating Model, where he described IFAD interventions in other countries in the region (Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia, Georgia, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova and Uzbekistan). Mr. Sma also shared insights on IFAD's previous interventions in Iraq. These included grant-financed interventions on improving  food security and climate change adaptability of livestock producers and on improving livelihoods of small producers through integrated pest management. IFAD's country programme would build on lessons from these interventions.

Challenges of the agricultural sector in Iraq

The main focus of the IFAD- Iraq meeting was to understand the present challenges that the Iraqi agricultural sector is facing as well as exchange ideas for future IFAD investments in the country. The interventions included challenges and opportunities for  investment in crop production, water and irrigation, livestock, date palm, climate change and natural resource management, sustainable agriculture, honey production, agricultural policy needs and access to finance. The discussions gave important insights on the challenges the agricultural sector in Iraq is facing and the areas that IFAD investments in Iraq should focus on, ensuring the interests of small-scale farmers remain the priority.

Jacopo Monzini, IFAD Senior Technical Specialist, presented a climate change mapping study which included information about the effects of climate change in Iraq. Some of the findings showed that temperatures have been increasing since 1981 and there are changes in rainfall patterns, a trend which is expected to continue affecting the agricultural sector also in the future.

"What we need in Iraq is to help smallholder farmers, youth and women establish small farms and produce crops and livestock,  improve their productivity, access markets and market their products. We need to introduce technologies to improve yields and farmer income, for example, drip and spray irrigation, packaging systems for horticulture systems, green houses and harvesting machines," said Dr. Fadhil Hussain Ridha, Dean of Faculty of Agriculture, University of Kufa.

"We had a very nice, mature, scientific discussion about projects for developing the agriculture sector in Iraq," said Dr. Majeed K.  Abbas, Faculty of Agriculture, University of Al Qadisiyah.

The next  steps

The consultative meeting proposed potential elements of a project concept note, the Smallholder Agriculture Revitalization in Iraq Project (SARI), which would focus on improved crop and livestock productivity, enhanced resilience to climate change, and increased income diversification for smallholder farmers in Iraq. The proposed project will tentatively target five of the poorest governorates in Iraq (Qadisiyah, Thi Qar, Missan, Muthanna, Nineveh), with a phased implementation approach. IFAD will build on the partnerships developed during the meeting to design the project in a participatory manner in the first quarter of 2017, with a slightly ambitious target of submitting the first IFAD investment project in Iraq to the December 2017 Executive Board for approval.

"The meeting was good and it was very inclusive with partners and experts from different sectors who gave inputs for possible interventions. When planning the new project it is important to take into account the needs of rural women in Iraq as they face challenges like intense labour work at the farms, farming activities, milking, collecting water, responsibility for family, lack of education and health services, "said Dr. Magda Abdulkadhim Salem, Head of Tissue Culture Unit, Department of Horticulture.