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Value Chain Analysis of Dates and Food for Restaurants in Heet District, Anbar Governorate (September 2021)

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Decades of recurring violence and political instability in Iraq have resulted in one of the worst humanitarian crises in the world. Populations living in governorates affected by the 2014-2018 conflict with the Islamic State in Levant (ISIL) have been faced with disruptions of all aspects of their lives, including access to health care, education, and livelihood opportunities. Since 2020, moreover, Iraq’s economy has suffered the implications of a double crisis: an unprecedented decrease in oil export revenues coupled with the devastating impact of the public health measures imposed by the government to control the spread of COVID-19. This has resulted in a considerable increase in the number of people in need of livelihood assistance.

Anbar governorate is among the most heavily affected by the 2014-2018 conflict. Once known as the breadbasket of Iraq, the country’s largest governorate has seen its infrastructure largely destroyed. Agriculture, in particular, was used by IS as a weapon of war, causing immense damage to the sector.

In August 2021, CCR commissioned Optimum Analysis to write this value chain analysis report based on data collected from stakeholders from the selected chains in Heet district. The specific value chains to analyse (dates and food for restaurants) were determined based on data collected by CCR. From this data, Optimum Analysis developed a list of products that showed potential for business development. The CCR team took the list and decided the two value chains to include in the value chain analysis. The main objective of the value chain assessment is to feed into the design of the specific livelihood activities that are to be implemented under the “Sustainable Livelihoods & Economic Recovery in Heet, Anbar, Iraq” project.

Cross-Sectoral Findings

Some of the findings applied both to the date and the food for restaurant value chains. Firstly, businesses in both value chains were severely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdowns and movement restrictions. Aside from limiting businesses to continue their operations, business owners also reported that demand for their products had decreased due to the pandemic.

Moreover, the data showed that recruitment within both value chains mostly occurred through informal channels. Only a few business owners in the food for restaurant value chain sometimes utilized the internet and social media but most business owners fully relief on the word of mouth. Business owners also reported that they prefer to recruit individuals who they already know. Previous experience was another trait that business owners focused on during recruitment. Qualifications and the completion of vocational training programs, however, were less important in the decision to recruit staff. The main challenges faced when recruiting new staff were that staff did not accept the salary offered and that available labour was not sufficiently skilled.

Lastly, when asked for the type of support most needed by business owners, microloans and credit was the most common given answer. Currently, some business owners have access to loans and credit through family members and friends while others have no access at all.

• Recommendation 1: Due to the possibility of future lockdowns and other movement restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it is recommended to include emergency preparedness training in the business training for current and aspiring business owners.

• Recommendation 2: Include modules on human resources in business training, including how to advertise job opportunities to increase the labour pool from which to select employees. Include information related to the advantages of public advertisement for jobs to ensure that staff are sufficiently skilled.

• Recommendation 3: Focus on the development of apprenticeships programs that provide trainees with three to six months of on-the-job experience. In collaboration with selected business owners, participants in the apprenticeship program should be offered a job if they complete the program.

• Recommendation 4: Support the establishment of a limited number of peer-to-peer lending groups to provide loans for start-ups. Ensure proper oversight of the activity to ensure the commitment of participants.