Harkening back to the flourishing green gardens that characterized ancient Mesopotamia’s urban centers, the city of Mosul is once again drawing life from the River Tigris by establishing kitchen gardens and greenhouses that will both feed the people and empower Moslawis with new, innovative agricultural systems.
“During the COVID-19 lockdown, by growing fresh vegetables – cucumbers, tomatoes and eggplants –not only was my family able to access nutritious and chemical-free food, but I could save money that I would normally spend buying this produce at the market,” explains Kulee, 55 year old mother-of-five and Mosul returnee, who received support to establish a kitchen garden at her home.
The destruction that resulted following ISIL’s occupation and the city’s liberation left Mosul scattered with rubble and mounds of compacted earth, unsuitable to grow vegetables and fruits. In 2019, in partnership with Oxfam, and with generous funding from Germany’s Ministry for Economic Cooperation through KfW, UNDP selected 1,200 Moslawis to participate in cash-for-work and training in Urban Agriculture.
Following the removal of rubble, work commenced to construct 20 community greenhouses – and 600 families received kitchen garden kits. Working in partnership with the Iraqi Directorate of Agriculture, families from across Hamdaniya, Telkaif and Mosul districts were trained in kitchen gardening, composting, and agronomic principles including, planting, weeding, pest and disease management, harvesting and urban farming technology. They also received tools and materials to start growing their own food - wheelbarrows, rakes, shovels, low tunnel greenhouses, vegetables seeds and seed trays.
“My kitchen garden helps me to save on the purchase of vegetables and also helps me to make use of kitchen waste – both food scraps and water!” described Amina, 65. “In my home, we are nine people, so saving the time and money we would normally use to travel to the market, is very helpful”
Urban Agriculture is more than food security. The systems and principles of Urban Agriculture encourage communities to work together, empowering citizens as producers, not just consumers, and inspiring innovation that will reduce food miles and financial burdens directly from the small green spaces in a person’s own yard.
“I love that I can provide highly-nutritious food to my family, from my garden!” says Ali Mohammed, 52 year-old father-of-six. “Just two months after planting, I am now harvesting 25-30kg of cucumbers every three days, which is plenty for my family and my neighbours,” he adds.
In addition to greenhouses and kitchen gardens, Oxfam and UNDP are working to construct five market stalls which can be used by urban farmers to sell their excess produce and make supplementary income. The stalls will be set up in Kuba, Sherekhan and Salamyiah and remain open beyond the completion of the project, to ensure beneficiaries have a designated space to sell their produce.