Cleaning the main Al Jazeera irrigation canal to resupply water for agricultural production.<br/>Photo: ©FAO/Cengiz Yar

Cleaning the main Al Jazeera irrigation canal to resupply water for agricultural production.
Photo: ©FAO/Cengiz Yar

Bringing agricultural life back to farmland near Mosul

A new FAO project, funded by UNDP, brings jobs and food to vulnerable Iraqis. Key irrigation channels near Mosul are getting restored to enable farmers to grow crops and vegetables.

Some 200 000 people from Mosul and across Iraq will be able to earn an income for the first time since the Islamic State of the Levant (ISIL) took parts of the area in 2014, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) reported in December 2016. FAO is running a project near Mosul that is restoring irrigation to 250 000 hectares of farmland. 

Water will soon be flowing again through the canals that used to feed the once-fertile land some 30 km west of Mosul - Iraq's third largest city. Through the cash-for-work component of the pro-ject, FAO supports vulnerable families who need money for daily needs, including food and clothes, heating and transport. Many of them have not had paid employment for at least two years.

Participants are clearing the main canal of the northern Al Jazeera irrigation scheme of dirt, stones and debris, which will allow it to again feed small canals throughout the farming landscape. FAO has also repaired the pumping station that feeds the canal system from Mosul Dam. And, for the first time, the agency is collaborating with a demining company to clear valuable farmland around the canals of undetonated ordinances, so farmers can plant crops and graze their livestock safely.

Farmers used to export crops, now they rely on food imports

The project is already benefiting more than 3000 people and is essential in getting farming activities in the area back underway. Farmers in the region used to export vegetables and crops, including wheat and barley, to Syria and other countries, as well as supplying millions of people in Iraq. Now the country relies on fruit and vegetable imports.

The Al Jazeera irrigation scheme used to be an essential source of water for agriculture, livestock and domestic use. Some 100 smaller canals in the system were damaged, bridges were also blown up and the damaged pumping station was working under capacity, resulting in extreme water shortages. As the Government of Iraq retakes control of more areas, a major effort is needed to rehabilitate critical infrastructure so that agricultural production can resume and livelihoods can be restored.

FAO is seeking urgent funding of USD 89 million to strengthen its emergency response, including rehabilitating damaged agricultural infrastructure, supporting farmers to vaccinate and feed their livestock, and expanding cash-for-work and other income-generating activities. FAO's work, in coordination with the Iraqi government, supports families returning to reclaimed areas, internally displaced families, host communities and refugees from Syria.

The current project on the Al Jazeera irrigation scheme is funded through the United Nations De-velopment Programme (UNDP).

(FAO/ile)