An agricultural training centre, constructed to support internally displaced Iraqis, officially opened its doors at the Harsham Refugee Camp in Erbil, the largest city in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq. The facility is part of a United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) project on resilience-building through immediate livelihood and income generation for internally displaced persons (IDPs), refugee, and host communities in the Harsham camp, which is funded by the Government of Austria.
The centre is an integrated training facility for agro-processing, which hosts five greenhouses, and is managed in partnership with the Ministry of Agriculture – Research Centre in Erbil. The training programme there introduces families to greenhouse farming, as well as small-scale agro-processing, beekeeping and fruit-processing.
At the inauguration of the centre, Begard Talabani, Iraq’s Minister of Agriculture and Water Resources, said, “UNIDO has been involved heavily in the assistance to IDPs. This is really great work. I hope that UNIDO and other UN agencies will continue to assist us to overcome this crisis and I would like to request UNIDO to further assist in the development of the agricultural sector in the region. This assistance will eventually result in a stronger infrastructure in the Kurdistan Region and the country as a whole.”
One graduate from the greenhouse farming course, 29-year-old Mansour Omer Khalat, explained, “During the training, I learned how to sow the seeds, how to transplant the seedlings into the greenhouse and other information about agriculture. I didn’t know anything about greenhouses before taking the training. It is a new technique for me. Before coming to the Harsham camp, my whole family has been working in agriculture for a long time, but I was in college. I was studying to become a teacher.”
The majority of the families that reside in the Harsham camp have been displaced from the Ninewa and other northern governorates of Iraq affected by the recent conflict. The training courses open new doors for them. The vegetables, planted during the greenhouse course, will partly provide for their own needs with the excess sold on the local market and in the Harsham camp, thus offering a steady source of income. The beekeeping and the fruit-processing courses also create produce for the local market via the newly established Harsham Agricultural Association.
The Harsham Agricultural Association aims to provide a sustainable outlook beyond the project closure by giving opportunities to its members to pursue and diversify agricultural initiatives in the light of stabilization and a process of return for those communities affected by the conflict in the region.
For many years, UNIDO has been actively engaged in the northern governorates of Iraq in the promotion of social cohesion and acceleration of economic recovery. This newly inaugurated agricultural training centre provides an innovative and unique platform that can be further expanded as an agro-industrial training centre to support of rural communities in accessing mechanization and capacity-building in order to move up the agricultural value chain.