Female Yazidi worshippers gather to remember the thousands of women and girls seized as sex slaves, tortured and murdered by ISIS fanatics (Daily Mail)

Female Yazidi worshippers gather to remember the thousands of women and girls seized as sex slaves, tortured and murdered by ISIS fanatics (Daily Mail)

An ancient monastery in Iraq is a symbol of Christian survival | Reuters

An ancient monastery in Iraq is a symbol of Christian survival | Reuters

Minorities, Cultural Practices, and Destruction by the Islamic State - Tel Keyf and Hamdaniya

Minorities, Cultural Practices,    ➤ READ MORE ON THIS REPORT

Activity 1 of Phase 2

Promotion of agricultural production, exchange and inter-community collaboration

Lead: Purdue University

Implementer: University of Duhok

Collaborators:  The University of Notre Dame

Inputs: demonstration/research plots (including materials and equipment), Purdue University technical know-how, the University Faculty and staff technical know-how, other facilities (intra- and extra-mural), Initial assessment findings, secondary sources (scholarly articles, gray literature)

Outputs: Workshop curriculum and materials co-developed between Purdue and the University of Duhok for the University faculty and staff training on market analysis, improve production practices, and community-level facilitation; Facilitation curriculum and materials co-developed between Purdue, UoD, and local farmers/villagers for community-level training on associativity, market assessment, product diversification and financial sustainability (profit making); market analysis (three in total); establishment of agricultural and trade collectives.


Faculty and staff from University of Duhok adopt and adapt new knowledge on market assessment, product diversification, and associativity as part of their curricula development and extension activities 

Local farmers adopt, adapt and apply new knowledge on market assessment, product diversification, and associativity as strategies co-developed with the University faculty and staff to recover nature stewardship practices relevant for their cultural practices

Local farmers trust the University faculty and staff, and actively exchange knowledge and experiences with faculty, staff and other communities on nature stewardship practices that promote the recovery of cultural heritage, practices and material resources

Local farmers and villagers are able to form collaborative groups and identify their own cultural needs and aspirations 

A1. Justification

According to the Phase 1 assessment findings, lack of financial resources (81%) followed by lack of equipment (36%) are seen by those surveyed as the two biggest obstacles to farming post-IS (O’Driscoll et al, 2021). Financial viability and sustainability is key for restoring cultural practices. As demonstrated by the initial needs assessment, food is seen to have significant cultural importance, with a large majority of those surveyed seeing meals for special occasions (72% of overall respondents; 82% for Kaka’i) and dishes connected to religious events (62% of overall respondents; 76% of Yazidis; 83% of Turkmen) as playing an important role in their life (Ibid). Moreover, there has been a loss of traditional methods of producing culturally significant food products due to not only the destruction of many of the raw materials used (e.g. olive trees) but also to the destruction of factories and production facilities.

Broadly speaking, farmers across minority groups report that local production is unable to compete with cheap imports, and prices remain low, leaving little to no profit margin for farmers, thus disincentivizing production of culturally relevant animal and plant varieties. Locally raised livestock, an important source of income for farmers, cannot compete with imported meat and dairy products from Turkey and Iran. There’s a similar situation in the crop sector in addition to complaints about the government grain procurement program, which includes significant delays in receiving payment, long queues in the silos hence incurring more transportation cost and being asked to pay a bribe for their grain to be accepted at the silo. Grain farmers also sell smaller quantities of their grains to cattle farmers, who use grains to feed their livestock. While this offers grain farmers a quick income, the market demand is small, and often they have to sell for lower prices compared to the government procurement program. 

Marketing has been identified as important for both the University of Duhok and farmers. The University of Duhok offers extension consultations to the community, teaches students, and conducts applied research to answer problems the farming community is facing. A focus on marketing will enable local farmers to situate the value of their products both in economic and sociocultural terms, acknowledging the need for a solid financial foundation that can support the production and recovery of culturally relevant food, feed, fibers and fuel. In addition, marketing through community engagement, impact reports, and storytelling may encourage increased student enrollment and more collaboration with stakeholders. Marketing for producers means getting profitable prices for their products, providing the right type of goods at the right place, in the right quantity and quality at the right time. 

The focus of marketing in this activity will be:

A thorough assessment of a market for a specific product (co-produced by University of Duhok and community stakeholders focusing on a product of their choice) studying the dynamics of the market, potential customer segments, buying patterns, market demand, competition, and other important factors.

Branding activity to elevate the awareness and demand for agricultural and cultural products that are raised locally and or value-added to make local production more rewarding than imported products.

Promoting the extension/engagement resources of the University of Duhok in collaboration with local community leaders to increase cultural practices and opportunities for small villages.    

Strengthening the interactions and collaborations between international stakeholders, NGO’s, local community leaders and the University of Duhok to cooperatively focus on community-identified needs and practices to strengthen livelihoods and lives.

A1. Approach

A co-production, locally-sourced innovation approach will be developed for the implementation of this activity. The project will leverage demonstration/research plots as innovation laboratories, community learning spaces, and productive assets. This process will rely on (a) planning and strategy, (b) diversity and community engagement, (c) locally available resources, (d) risk awareness at the operational, environmental and sociopolitical levels, (e) active data collection for evidence production and learning, and (f) promotion of multi-sectoral, multi-level partnerships and collaboration. The management process will have three macro steps: (1) Ideation, (2) Co-Design, and (3) Implementation. This iterative process will allow communities and the UoD to test, control and improve methods, approaches and techniques for agricultural production.

In order to achieve the proposed outcomes, a full market analysis, involving a faculty member and graduate student from Purdue University working collaboratively with faculty members from the University of Duhok, will be carried out. Together they will complete a full market analysis for one of the identified products (dates, tahini, olive oil, and pickles) in three distinct locations. A full market analysis will take about 8 months to complete. This will be a collaborative activity between Purdue University and University of Duhok that can be replicated in the future between University of Duhok and local farmer groups. The purpose is twofold: the data from the analysis will be useful in defining production and marketing opportunities (end result), but also will serve as hands-on practical training of University of Duhok staff working alongside Purdue marketing specialists (process).

Conjointly, a two-week workshop will be held within the first half of Phase 2 for 15 faculty and staff of University of Duhok. The workshop will take place primarily on Purdue University’s campus, but will incorporate visits and or stays on the Indiana University and University of Notre Dame campuses. The educational workshop will focus on 4 areas: production, marketing, social science, and extension/engagement. Potential topics for the workshop were identified as a need from UoD and listed below (subject to change during the planning process). Some will be modeled as a Training of Trainers (ToT) while others will be a skill transfer.

University of Duhok will support technical transfer and skill-building for local farmers on how to assess markets, diversify production, and increase profits. The University of Duhok will become more recognized as a valuable source of practical information and strengthen collaboration with community stakeholders in their research and outreach work to encourage long-term, sustainable planning and living across cultures. Additional capacity development support will be provided to grassroots collectives and organizations of farmers and producers. 

Assessment participants highlighted a number of issues that were perceived as potential drivers of tension between groups, namely political parties resorting to identity politics, displacement-driven demographic changes in certain areas, widespread use of inflammatory and/or hate speech in social media, and conflicts over land and property ownership. In spite of the abovementioned factors, cooperative behaviors persist across groups and communities. The assessment found that “community members still demonstrate a willingness to collaborate, and both community leaders and members talk fondly of the past when cultural practices brought communities closer together” (O-Driscoll et al. 2021). Farmers still engage in cooperative behaviors with neighbors, in practices such as  sharing equipment, storage facilities, and information with one another. Farmers also indicated they are currently exchanging information about crops, pest control, irrigation, seeds and learning from one another. 

Based upon these insights, this project will build upon existing associative practices aiming at enhancing and strengthening them, leveraging the positive attitudes across the board on the value of cooperation and agricultural exchange. Considering the desirability, feasibility and viability of enhanced cooperative practices and improved organization, the project will seek to support farmer associations in increasing access to resources and markets.

A1. Brief description of sub-activities (in chronological order)

The Activity #1 consisted of Promotion of agricultural production, exchange and inter-community collaboration. According to the Phase 1 evaluation findings, the two main impediments to farming post-IS are a lack of financial resources (81%), followed by a lack of equipment (36%). Financial viability and sustainability are critical for the restoration of cultural activities. Food is seen to have significant cultural importance, as demonstrated by the initial needs assessment, with a large majority of those surveyed seeing meals for special occasions (72% of overall respondents; 82% for Kakai) and dishes associated with religious events (62% of overall respondents; 76% of Ezidis; 83% of Turkmen) as playing an important role in their life. ➤ LEARN MORE

The Activity #2, Farmers from minority groups claim that local products cannot compete with inexpensive imports, prices are low, leaving farmers with little to no profit margin, and thus disincentivizes the creation of culturally appropriate animal and plant species. Farmers' primary source of income, locally bred livestock, cannot compete with imported meat and dairy goods from Iran and Turkey. In addition to concerns about the government's grain procurement scheme, there are comparable issues in the agricultural sector. These issues include considerable payment delays, long silo lines that increase transportation costs, and requests for bribes in order for grain to be received at the silo.  ➤ READ MORE

Leaders of the Ezidis and Kakai groups claim challenges in promoting and selling their agricultural goods, including as cattle, dairy products, and other consumables, to Muslim populations for apparently hygienic and religious reasons. This is thought to be the result of ignorance (misinformation) and/or preconceptions about their beliefs, which has a detrimental effect on their way of life and capacity to continue engaging in agriculture. They also cite incidents of hate speech directed at their communities as a result of ignorance of their religion, as shown by school curriculum that primarily emphasise Islamic doctrines. Lack of knowledge and hate speech are thought to worsen intercommunal trust, social cohesion, and cohabitation while also fostering economic and social discrimination.  ➤ EXPLORE THIS ACTIVITY

A multi-stakeholder strategy is necessary for the restoration of the cultural and agricultural practises of the ethno-religious minority in Northern Iraq. The capacity of stakeholders to implement strategies is constrained by technical, financial, and "programme scope" issues (from local communities to UN Agencies). Given the dependency between the results of one programme and those of other programmes, these restrictions in turn serve as incentives for coordination and collaboration. In this regard, collaboration and information exchange with other assistance organisations is essential for long-term sustainability of outcomes as well as for the encouragement of aims and objectives alignment and social and political transformation in Northern Iraq. ➤ ACCESS TO READ MORE