CABI is leading a partnership to help further develop and complete the potato value chain in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, ultimately benefitting 8,000 smallholder farmers with improved livelihoods and creating over 10,000 jobs – including employment for refugees and internally displaced people.
The five-year project, funded by The Netherlands Enterprise Agency on behalf of The Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, will establish a potato cold storage and processing factory in Duhok province – which will employ 160 workers and be capable of producing 6,000 tonnes of French fries each year.
CABI, together with partners the Ministry of Agriculture & Water Resources in Kurdistan Region, the University of Duhok, and private sector organisations HZPC and Kurdistan Holland (KH), will help enhance potato cultivation and post-harvest activities. This will be achieved through a programme of infrastructure investment and capacity building along the potato value chain.
This includes CABI working with partners to strengthen crop pest diagnostic capabilities – through improved laboratory facilities, in the field and by promoting good agricultural practices and the use of Integrated Pest Management – with a focus on the use of biological control where possible. The project will also see CABI and partners delivering high-quality extension campaigns to inform smallholder farmers of best practice in potato production.
Supported by a favourable climate and an abundance of fertile land, the Kurdistan Region of Iraq is well suited to potato production, and cultivation and post-harvest activities are important sources of employment and income in rural areas. Despite this, land and labour have been underutilised due to a lack of opportunities for value-addition and training.
In addition, insufficient investment in the agricultural sector in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq has resulted in a growing dependency on imported food of low quality. Low profit margins have meant that farmers are unwilling to invest in technology and increased production.
As a consequence, agriculture remains below its potential. Post-harvest losses have also been substantial due to poor infrastructure and a lack of suitable storage facilities and the absence of processing facilities.
Ambassador Michel Rentenaar, of the Netherlands Embassy in Iraq, officially launched the project in Kurdistan this week together with CABI’s CEO Dr Daniel Elger – who attended the event virtually – and project executive Dr Janny Vos along with representatives from all project partners. Mr Masrour Barzani, The Prime Minister of the Kurdistan Regional Government, was also in attendance at the event.
Mr Rentenaar said, “A partnership approach incorporates different partners, each with their own specific set of expertise. Joining forces adds value and enables the partnership to address any issue it is confronted with along the line. In this way, it creates a more stable and sustainable source of income for all parties involved, private and public.
“Besides strengthening the agricultural sector, the integrated value chain approach could serve as a model for different economic sectors. Improving the quality of domestic production allows Iraqi producers to compete with imported goods and helps Iraq to diversify its economy.”
CABI Chief Executive Officer Dr Daniel Elger mentioned that CABI will work with partners to help smallholder farmers gain access to quality and affordable seed potato and improve their overall farming practices as part of an Integrated Pest Management plan to mitigate pests and diseases which threaten their crops.
“Through the activities of the project, we will work in partnership to help promote sustainable economic growth in the potato production and processing sector with the aim of supporting thousands of farmers and the farm workers they employ,” he said.
“We will help ensure that pest management is consistent with Good Agricultural Practice requirements and see that investment is also focussed on the diagnosis of pests and diseases as part of a closer relationship between research and extension.”
Main image: Potato cultivation and post-harvest activities are important sources of employment and income in rural areas of the Kurdistan region of Iraq (Credit: CABI).
Find out more about CABI’s ‘Strengthening the potato value chain in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq’ from the project page here.