EU to support economic development and job creation in Iraqi agricultural sector
“IOM is proud to expand its collaboration with the European Union in Iraq, in particular as it relates to sustainable job creation and support of the Government of Iraq,” said IOM Iraq Chief of Mission Gerard Waite.UNIraq | Updated: 16-12-2020 16:38 IST | Created: 16-12-2020 16:38 IST
The Government of Iraq, the European Union's Directorate-General for International Cooperation and Development (EU-DEVCO) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) are expanding their partnership to support economic development and sustainable job creation in Iraq, in particular through targeted efforts in the agricultural sector.
The agricultural sector in Iraq served as a safety net to many during the height of the conflict with the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). Yet it has come under increasing strain as slow-onset environmental change, environmental degradation, and governance challenges have forced many rural families to abandon agricultural livelihoods in search of seasonal opportunities.
While farmers may be willing to invest personal funds in their farms, a lack of water, fear of oversupply in the face of imports from neighbouring countries, and competition with public sector opportunities create market and labour-side issues that fuel moves to other areas in search of work, internal displacement and outward migration. Meanwhile, processing capacities for small scale, family agri-businesses are severely underdeveloped, limiting the availability of value addition opportunities. Sustainable job creation in Iraq is a key need, one that has been exacerbated by the negative impact of COVID-19 on the Iraqi economy.
"IOM is proud to expand its collaboration with the European Union in Iraq, in particular as it relates to sustainable job creation and support of the Government of Iraq," said IOM Iraq Chief of Mission Gerard Waite. "With this additional funding, IOM will expand its successful Enterprise Development Fund (EDF) mechanism to the agricultural sector. This is of particular importance considering the economic difficulties brought on by COVID-19," he added.
A recent joint study by IOM, the International Trade Centre (ITC) and Food and the Agriculture Organization (FAO) showed that as of September 2020, small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in Iraq's food and agriculture sector had suffered a nearly 50 per cent decline in production. Employment numbers at the time of the survey had also reduced, on average, by 21 per cent, including both terminated and furloughed employees.
Through this project funded by the European Union, IOM Iraq will complement the work done by the Government of Iraq (GoI) and international partners in support of primary agricultural producers, and build on its Enterprise Development Fund funding mechanism for SMEs. The project will both provide much-needed financial and technical support to SMEs in the agricultural sector, and strengthen the GoI's capacity to provide financial support and technical assistance to SMEs. It will also link closely with other EU-funded activities in the same sector, including those implemented by other UN agencies, civil society organisations and government partners.
"Access to sustainable employment is a key need for many Iraqis, especially the youth. By supporting SMEs in the agriculture sector, this project is well placed to provide sustainable decent work opportunities which are urgently required during the COVID-19 crisis," said Martin Huth, EU Ambassador to Iraq. "The EU is delighted to expand our partnership with IOM in Iraq in order to contribute to more jobs which will be created by SMEs in the most promising agriculture sector," he added.
This project will build upon the existing experience and good practices gathered from the EDF and will provide the GoI with an effective tool for job creation support through the enhancement of key agricultural value chains including processing capacities. Since December 2018, a total of 2,895 new job opportunities have been created in Iraq through the EDF.
With this funding from the EU, IOM will also partner with the Iraqi financial sector to increase access to credit for promising SMEs, fuelling their expansion and additional job creation. Building on the data and experience gathered by EDF, IOM Iraq will seek to increase the financial sector's overall capacity to provide loans to SMEs, and for SMEs to present bankable opportunities.