Iraqi Women Farmers Promote New Technologies
Some Iraqi women vegetable growers find an opportunity in open field commercial vegetable and forage production while disseminating new technology. The Zanabeq Al-Haqel Womens’ Association located in the Ninawa Governorate provides hands-on learning opportunities for area farmers and Ministry of Agriculture (MoA) staff in agricultural production.
Through an agreement with the USAID-Inma Agribusiness Program, the women’s association became a USAID-Inma Field-Based Learning Center (FBLC). This allowed its members to be trained in commercial production agriculture and training methodologies, including proper equipment operation, crop production cycle and business management. The association now provides practical learning experience for farmers and MoA extension personnel throughout northern Iraq. In fact, 60% of trainees visiting the center have been men.
The FBLC is open to all visitors and scheduled farmer-field-school trainings pertaining to planting, irrigation, fertilization and harvesting are common at the center. The facility combines traditional methods with commercial ones for a variety of crops (tomato, eggplant, pepper, melon, cucumber, onion, millet and alfalfa). For instance, it has demonstrated three types of irrigation systems (sprinkler, drip and lay-flat pipe) and crop rotation. Currently, the FBLC demonstrates sustainable, profitable small-scale farming of vegetables, cereal grains and forage production on 12 donums of land. The average size farm in Iraq ranges between 10 and 20 donums.
Using modern technology reduces time in the field while increasing the area of cultivated land. Traditional planting methods are labor intensive; two donums of vegetable transplants would take approximately 500 man-hours to plant. However, using the new technology, four donums can be planted in 50 man-hours. That equates to a labor cost savings of $500 USD per donum while doubling the area of cultivated land. These women are doing their part in making Iraq food secure.
The USAID-Inma Agribusiness Program has established eight Field Based Learning Centers as venues to train beneficiary farmers and MoA staff. The centers are used to demonstrate and showcase the use of new equipment and growing techniques for a variety of crops that will increase yields and raise annual incomes.