ROME, ITALY — The United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) is scaling-up critical food and agriculture assistance to highly vulnerable rural households in Iraq thanks to a generous $14.7 million grant from Saudi Arabia. The donation is part of a $500 million grant that Saudi Arabia has provided to support Iraqis affected by the recent crisis. 

The funds will mainly be used to respond to the needs of thousands of rural households whose livelihoods depend on cereal crops and livestock and who are currently struggling to survive.  

"Losses of both assets and income opportunities are exposing a growing number of poor people to an alarming state of food insecurity," said Fadel El Zubi, FAO representative in Iraq. "Massive displacement of people and inaccessible farmland, as well as disruptions to fuel supplies, harvest subsidies and food supply chains, are affecting the availability of and access to food. The situation is likely to deteriorate as the crisis continues and the emergency situation becomes increasingly complex.” 

The conflict has seriously impacted cereal harvests in key production areas. Ninevah and Salah al-Din governorates, which usually contribute about a third of Iraq's wheat and 40% of its barley, are particularly affected.

The reduced harvest may trigger a drop in food supply levels, an increase in import requirements and a rise in food prices, FAO said. FAO is working to support farming families and provide them with the means to sustain their livelihoods and cope with the crisis.  

FAO will soon distribute to farmers critically needed wheat seed and fertilizer for the upcoming planting season (October-November 2014). Simultaneous efforts will be undertaken to build the resilience of conflict-affected rural households through support to develop backyard vegetable and poultry production, while households headed by women and poor families will be trained in home food processing and involved in cash-for-work activities, helping them rebuild their livelihoods, create job opportunities and improve their access to food. 

Animal feed will also be distributed to help herders sustain their flocks (their main assets) and maintain productive livestock activities. Veterinary supplies and services will be provided to help protect flocks from transboundary animal diseases, which already present a threat to livestock and a danger to public health, particularly among displaced populations.

The joint WFP-FAO food security cluster will be further strengthened to ensure coordination between relevant institutions. 

"This is yet another emergency in the region and our teams are working relentlessly to respond to the needs of farmers and displaced populations in the affected countries - but the needs are huge. We are grateful to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia whose generosity will make a difference in the lives of thousands of people in Iraq. We appeal to the generosity of other donors to help the people of Iraq as the crisis unfolds," said Abdessalam Ould Ahmed, FAO assistant director-general and regional representative for the Near East and North Africa.