Wednesday 5 October 2011


I understand that many people are very keen to do something to help in improving agriculture and food security for Kurdistan. With this in mind I would like to suggest setting up a non government organisations (NGOs) with the specific aim of revitalising the Kurdish villages. We are all too aware that as a result of the activities of Saddam and associated wars we have lost too many of our villages and that young people are leaving rural life to seek employment in the towns or abroad. Villages form the backbone of the countryside and we should do all that we can to encourage the continuation and improvement of village life to sustain the countryside on which our agriculture depends. There are about 1,134 NGOs that receive financial support from the Government but very few of these deal with village life.

Sustaining and improving village life has formed many successful projects that have been set up by the UN agencies and NGOs across the world. The role of women in village life is vital as they traditionally have the care of poultry, rabbits and small ruminants which are used to provide food and income to village families. In addition women, and men, can be involved in traditional crafts that offer a source of income too. As animal production, albeit on a small scale, is important to village families improving animal health as an immediate effect and I was the author of a FAO publication the Primary Animal Health Care Worker (PAHCW) that has been translated into several of the UN languages and used successfully in many countries. It can be easily translated into Kurdish and used in projects aimed at improving primary animal health care in villages.

Areas that could be considered for projects to improve village life are:
1. Poultry production: the backyard poultry offers a source of protein in the form of meat and eggs not only for the family but also as a source of income. The provision of battery or solar powered egg incubators and basic training in poultry production to a village will lead to increased production and a source of revenue to those involved. In addition the project can ensure the continuation of local breeds of birds and the genetic banks they represent.

2. Avian influenza which killed two people in Rania and the heavy handed action of the Government to control the situation has decimated poultry production in the villages of Kurdistan. The rearing of local poultry was a vital part of basic food security in villages for thousands of years and we should do all we can to revive this sector.

3. Small ruminants, (sheep and goats), are a vital source of meat, milk, cheese, wool etc and improving the welfare of these animals will again increase their value for food and provide a source of revenue to the small scale producer. Local breeds of sheep and goats need to be maintained and improved. Training in disease recognition, castration procedures etc can be delivered using PAHCW and in addition cheese production and traditional crafts using the animal products offer an additional avenue.

4. Rabbit meat is consumed in Kurdistan but I have been told that rabbits are only reared in a few villages in Koy and Kirkuk. Introducing rabbit breeding to more Kurdish villages will be a great help for food security and form a good, safe source of animal protein.

5. The formation of co-operations to assist small scale/village cheese and yogurt producers, crafts people etc could be considered as a means of encouraging and promoting the traditional crafts and products in a locality.

6. A traditional handicraft of Kurdish villages is making the material for men’s clothes from goat’s hair and sheep wool. Machinery is now taking over but handcrafted material is preferred and it is much more available than the manufactured product. The production and marketing of this product could benefit from the formation of an organisation.

7. Traditional rug and klim production in villages offers a source of income from exports and the production and sale of these products could be encouraged with the aim of targeting the home and international market.

8. Producing honey by providing hives and training in beekeeping would not only provide a valuable food but assist in safeguarding the honeybee which is a vital pollinator of food crops worldwide.

9. Small simple green houses or polytunnels can be used to lengthen the season of crops and/or amount of crops, produced in a season and would be beneficial to small farmers.

10. The care of woodlands and the revenue that can result from them may also be considered. Walnuts not only give a crop each year but produce a valuable hardwood. So valuable is the walnut that research into the cultivars has been carried out in many parts of the world and could be utilised in revitalising this traditional source of income to Kurdish villages.

11. The idea of Peasant or Small Farmer Banks started in Bangladesh aimed at assisting small farmers to improve production and took off across the world. This concept has been adopted by the Ordogan Party in Turkey however in Kurdistan the banks and parastatal organisations are more ready offer loans for the purchase of a house, Mercedes or refridgerator. How about an organisation providing soft loans to village women to allow them to start their agro/village industry.

12. Government involvement in these  NGOs should be at a minimum. The government can help with providing soft loans to create a revolving fund to maintain an enterprise.

A new office for NGOs has been created and attached to the Prime Minister’s Office should pay attention to those NGOs and agricultural NGOs that offer benefits to villagers and farmers instead of concentrating on those that are politically orientated.

Well, I believe it is time that we think seriously about improving rural life here. It has been done successfully in many parts of the world so why not in Kurdistan. We owe a lot to these villages and the villagers. These NGOs will assist in changing villages of Kurdistan from cosumers back to producers units.

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