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This agri-business project provides food sustainability to Kurdistan’s most isolated refugee camp. Syrian refugees selected for food sustainability and livelihood projects in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq’s (KRI) most isolated refugee camp have begun receiving eggs from chickens they received as part of a UNIDO project which began in March 2020.

Each beneficiary received twenty five chickens, a chicken coop complete with water and feeding containers, other feeding tools, and a 100 square meter farm lot to grow alfalfa to feed the chickens. The chickens are expected to produce approximately 20 eggs per day at the height of production which will last for at least two years.

The first eggs started to be produced during the week of Newroz, the Kurdish New Year, and output has increased. Families have been able to contribute to the food security of their families, and some have produced enough to sell to others.

Gawilan camp sits in the valleys of southeastern Duhok province 47 kilometers northwest of Erbil city making it difficult for residents to find work and make ends meet after a treacherous journey to flee war-torn Syria. Upon providing a needs analysis of Gawilan Syrian refugee camp in August 2018, it was decided by UNIDO that Gawilan camp had the highest unemployment rate and the greatest need for employability opportunities due to its secluded location.

Azdeon Zahida, a Yezidi women from Afrin, was ecstatic about the project, especially after receiving her first 15 eggs over the Newroz holiday. “I used to wake up at 10 a.m. every day. Now I wake up at 7 a.m. to go and tend to the chickens,” she said, adding that her children also loved the chickens and would cry if they couldn’t visit the chicken coops with their parents. She said either her or her husband visit the chicken coop at least three times per day with their children. Her only concern was that the chickens were so far producing small eggs in the early stages, although she is using them to feed her six children. “When we receive bigger eggs we will start selling them,” Azdeon explained. “I’m very excited. We are very happy to go there and see the chickens and feed them every day. My husband said the chickens are like his children,” she said with a laugh.

Aidaa Abd Alrahman Hasan from Qamishli was also happy to receive her first batch of eggs. “I’m doing everything myself,” Hasan, age 26 explained, including harvesting the alfalfa to feed the chickens. Her husband disappeared in Damascus during the Syrian war, leaving her alone as the sole provider for her two young children. “I’m happy about receiving eggs,” she said, adding that she hopes to have more chickens one day. “If I could receive 20 eggs per day it would be really good. I’ll be able to sell them and make money.”

Khalifa Hama Said from Qamishli is the sole breadwinner for her family, due to her husband’s disability. Before the project, her family survived only off of what food neighbors would give them. Now, she is able to produce enough eggs for her family and to sell and give to others.

“I go every morning and every evening to take care of the chickens! When it is hot, I even give them ice water,” said Khalifa. “With 25 eggs in a day, I can feed my family, and have enough to sell or give to my neighbors.”

“Even if we only had bread to eat, thank God my family would at least have each other. But my children are doing well in school, and the chickens are producing eggs, and we have more to eat. Thank God for everything.”

Lamia Journaa Nasan, age 35 from Kobane said she’s received five eggs so far and was happy that they provided food for her family at this time. “I’m so happy when I see the eggs coming,” Nasan said. “Every day my kids come here with me and are really excited to find eggs too.”

“This is phase one of the project,” explained Sardar Sami of UNIDO. ”Later we will evaluate the project, and if it is possible, we might be able to expand the space and increase the number of chickens.”

According to Iraqi agriculture laws, one chicken is allowed one square meter of space so each chicken coop with 25 chickens allows for 25 square meters. Some of the beneficiaries also inquired about the possibility of allowing their chickens to reproduce instead of just using the eggs for food and sales. “If we are able to expand the project and space in the future, roosters would be brought in to allow for reproduction,” Sardar added.

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