Iraq: the greening of Al-Jazeera
The ICRC is changing the colour of the fields around a drought-racked village in Babil governorate central Iraq. Al-Jazeera's residents have always been farming people whose crops depend on water from nearby rivers here in the bread-basket of Iraq. But irrigation was made difficult by the violence of the past decade.
Now meagre rains have been added to the farmers' woes, with once-verdant land turning to dusty brown.
ICRC agronomists went to the village to discuss setting up an economical drip-irrigation scheme. The village leader, Al-Sheikh Omar Al Janabi, who himself already used drip irrigation, helped draw up a list of candidates for ICRC aid. A key selection criterion was the degree to which the candidate has been affected by the violence of recent years.
Once the list was finalized, each recipient was visited by ICRC engineers who explained how to get the most out of the system. The fields of Al-Jazeera are turning emerald again.
Since September 2011, the ICRC has been helping needy farmers near Baghdad and in Diyala, Wassit, Babil and Anbar governorates by providing them with drip-irrigation systems. Over 6,300 farmers have so far received the equipment to help boost agricultural production and improve their lives.
The organization is planning similar initiatives in Ninewa, Kirkuk and other governorates for farmers affected by the violence. Aid includes training in the installation and operation of drip irrigation.
The ICRC is also furnishing these farmers with fertilizers, seeds and plastic hoses, and using a cash-for-work programme to reclaim agricultural land and dig irrigation ditches. In addition, it is subsidizing the purchase and vaccination of livestock.