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EU Regional Trust Fund in Response to the Syrian crisis

My motivation to work within this project, is to see agriculture develop again, have water running and green fields.

Fayyad lives in Rabia Nineveh, Iraq, with his wife and ten children, three girls and seven boys. His job, in the context of FAO’s “Cash for Work” activities, is to clear rubble, grass and other vegetation that has been piling up in a canal during the period Daesh was occupying the region, obstructing the free flow of water.

“This project is vital and goes beyond agriculture fields,” explains Fayyad. If there is no water flowing through the fields, local populations are not able to plant vegetables and provide sustenance to their families. “My motivation to work within this project,” says Fayyad, “is to see agriculture develop again, have water running and green fields, and jobs available again because the unemployment rate has been high since Daesh came to the region.”

Water is really hard to access in this region and removing impediments from canals where water should be flowing is hard work, especially when lacking modern equipment to support this endeavor. “The situation is very different. Now, the project is running and everything is being rebuilt. [...] Before there was no work,” says Fayyad. “I’m hoping that things go back to what they were, that the project runs like before. There is no doubt working is beneficial for me because I make money to support my family but it needs to be on the long term, especially since I am responsible for a family.”

Like Fayyad, Fares works on freeing the canal from obstacles. “After Daesh came in, everything was destroyed,” he says. “This project is vital to revive the whole region.” In fact, more than 70 villages will directly benefit from FAO’s work here.

When speaking about Daesh, Fares explains: “I can’t even describe the negative effects it had on the region… they destroyed homes, families, killed people. They did unspeakable things, they ruined everything, destroyed everything: homes, infrastructure, projects… I cannot even put into words what they have caused.”

Daesh’ invasion created huge problems for this project, which stopped functioning in 2014. Divisions in Iraq started arising and what was widely perceived as solidarity amongst different communities dramatically disappeared. The few workers that used to reach the area from Sinjar and the south suddenly stopped coming due to the worsening security situation and fear for their lives.

Talahao Pumping Station is part of a big irrigation system comprising about 70,000 hectares in Northern Nineveh, Iraq, an area that was occupied by Daesh in 2014 and that serves about 35,000 farming families. “During that time, they pilfered most of the metals, the aluminium and the copper that was in the pumping station,” explains Paul Schlunke, FAO’s Head of Office in Erbil. “Farming families rely on irrigation water for their cropping seasons.” Water flow is of fundamental importance for the community’s agricultural season, the products of which constitute the base of these families’ livelihoods. “Daesh actually ruined the lives of all the farmers who couldn’t carry on their vegetable cropping so they lost all their livelihoods and have been suffering a lot ever since,” continues Paul. “Now they are just getting back on their feet.”

Thanks to the financial support of the EU through the Trust Fund, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has been able to clear valuable farmland around the canals of undetonated ordinances, so farmers can go back to planting crops and grazing their livestock safely. With its “cash for work” component, FAO is helping increase households’ income by creating short-term employment opportunities for 1,250 vulnerable households. Amongst other objectives, the aim of this project is to help farmers by rehabilitating damaged irrigation infrastructure and restoring water supplies after a 4-year-long halt. FAO expects to restore water supply to support food production and agricultural livelihoods of an estimated 210,000 local villagers, while having an indirect impact on 180,000 people.

“Once the vegetable season is up and running,” explains Paul, “there will be a lot of casual work provided for harvesting, packaging, and transport. [...] It will really help people from Mosul that have been liberated.”