Under the patronage of His Excellency the Minister of Agriculture, Engineer, Muhammad Karim Al-Khafaji, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) launched an innovative Peer-to-Peer training Program for Ministry of Agriculture (MOA) Extension Officers on Monday, October 2021 in Erbil. The program had been designed for 12 MOA staff from the southern governorates of Maysan, Dhi Qar and Basra and was supported by 30 extension officers and female dairy producers from Ninewa Governorate.
The opening ceremony was attended by Dr. Hadi Hashem Hussein - representative of the Agriculture Minister and FAO-MOA Coordinator; D. Rabie Youssef Elias - Director of Ninewa Directorate of Agriculture; and Dr. Salah Al-Hajj Hassan, FAO Representative in Iraq, and other staff from the EU-funded project “Support to agricultural livelihoods of rural and peri-urban returnees and communities in Ninewa Governorate, Iraq.”
Dr. Hadi Hashem Hussein said that the project implemented in Ninewa also achieved its remarkable results by introducing additional innovative technologies with forage crops and complementary feeding. Producing more milk products –and of higher quality (including better hygiene practices) have led to increased incomes. Dr Hadi stressed that the Ministry of Agriculture gives great importance to this project and encourages the transfer of its methods and new practices to be sahred and rolled out to other Iraqi governorates as well.
Dr. Rabea Yousef Elias said he was very happy with the capacity building his extension staff of the Ninewa Agriculture Directorate had been exposed to, and he also appreciated the important role played by his staff in various implementation steps of the project supporting the beneficiary farmers in the field. In total, more than 30 extension officers had been able to develop their skills and capabilities through FAO training in innovative technologies, especially related to livestock (early weaning practices) and green fodder production.
Dr. Salah Al-Hajj Hassan, FAO Representative in Iraq, thanked the Ministry of Agriculture with all its staff, for the strong support of all FAO projects implemented in cooperation with the Ministry and for the approach followed to involve extension staff in the implementation of projects. He said that the involvement ensures the sustainability of interventions through strengthening of the farmer support services. Dr Salah further said that these well-trained extension workers can now also contribute to capacity development of their colleagues in other governorates. This workshop is a first opportunity to train colleagues from southern governorates to become district-level lead trainers or Trainer-of-Trainers and Farmer Field School facilitators (FFS). He was grateful that the extension team in Ninewa was supportive of the transfer of expertise between peers.
Dr. Salah Hajj Hassan also announced that a first opportunity has arisen with new funding received from the EU for the project: "Restoration and Strengthening the Resilience of Agri-Food Systems in Southern Iraq”, implemented by FAO in cooperation with the Ministry of Agriculture, the Ministry of Water Resources and local authorities in the Governorates of Maysan, Dhi Qar and Basra.
This emphasis on capacity development of technical and extension workers through peer-to-peer training fits the broader agenda of the GoI and the related United Nations Sustainable Development Cooperation Framework for Iraq. Dr Kayouli Chedly - FAO Senior International Livestock Expert, was leading and supervising the training exercise, with support from the respective Directors of the Ninewa Agriculture Directorate and southern governorates.
The FAO expert stressed that the main output is to have trained 12 MOA extension staff from the target districts and sub-districts in Southern Governorates in Ninewa Governorate through peer-to-peer training to help FAO to implement project activities in livestock, fodder and feeding. At the end of the training, the extension staff will be considered fully trained as district-based leading trainers (TOT) and FFSs facilitators.
On the sidelines of the meeting, dairy products made by project beneficiaries within the Ninewa project were presented and consumed with great appreciation. New markets are sought in places like Erbil to market the new dairy products such as cheese, qaymar, and cream. And by the reaction from visitors to the venue this will be successful.